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MJ Ryan

Gratitude and Generosity are Indivisible
by M.J. Ryan

"As I express my gratitude, I become more aware of it. And the greater my awareness, the greater my need to express it. What happens here is a spiraling ascent, a process of growth in ever-expanding circles around a steady center." ~Brother David Steindl-Rast

The Giving Heart

Years ago, my friend Grace got into a financial jam. She had bought a one-bedroom condo in the boom years of the eighties, and watched as the market for condos dropped like a rock. Then she was transferred to another state and couldn’t get rid of it because she owed more on the mortgage than she could sell it for. She couldn’t just walk away from it because the bank would come after the house she and her husband managed to buy despite the condo. So she rents it out, but the huge mortgage continues to be an albatross around her neck. Over the years, those who are close to Grace, including her friend Molly, have heard her express anxiety about the condo, especially whenever a tenant leaves.

One day recently, Molly called up Grace and told her that she and her husband had just made a killing when his Internet company went public, and she was going to give Grace the money to pay off the mortgage on the condo. Grace was overwhelmed. "You can’t do that," she said. "It’s so much money." And Molly replied, "I feel so grateful that my life has been so blessed. I just want to spread some of the blessings around. I’ve heard you complain about that condo for years. It would be give me great joy to alleviate that burden on you." Grace kept demurring, but Molly persisted, and finally Grace accepted. As a consequence, Molly got to feel the delicious sensation of giving a huge gift to someone she loved.

Attitudes of Gratitude

And Grace? Not only was she relieved of the burden of the condo, but she got to experience a sense of gratitude that spread in all its magnificence into all aspects of her life. Speaking to me about it the other day, she said, "You know, I have been blessed with truly generous friends all my life. Molly ended up giving me more than I needed to pay off the loan. What I would really like to do now is to use the rest of the money to help my in-laws get out of debt."

Both Molly and Grace have entered the ever-expanding circle of open-heartedness that comes from the interplay of generosity and gratitude. It doesn’t matter where you enter the circle—in gratitude or with generosity. But the more you experience one, the more the other enhances your life as well. You feel grateful, which is the experience of fullness, and from that fullness you offer someone else something—an encouraging word, a helping hand—and receive something in return love—the feeling of connection, a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment that in turn fuels your feeling of gratitude for the gifts of life you have received.

A Grateful Heart

Few of us will ever be as extravagant in our giving as Molly, but that doesn’t matter. The beautiful circle that giving and thankfulness traces occurs no matter the size or form of the gift.

May you find myriad ways to enter the circle, particularly during this holiday season.
~M.J. Ryan

© Copyright M.J. Ryan.  All Rights Reserved.  Adapted from "The Giving Heart."  Published by Conari Press.

M.J. Ryan is the founder and former CEO of Conari Press, one of the most successful independent book publishing houses in the U.S. Recently she joined Professional Thinking Partners ( www.PTPinc.org) where she specializes in thinking partnerships with senior level executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals on issues of work-life balance, creativity and innovation, life purpose, renewal processes, values-based business development, and effective organizational strategies. The author of the best-selling Attitudes of Gratitude and one of the creators of the best-selling Random Acts of Kindness series, she is also the author of 365 Health and Happiness Boosters and the compiler of A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles. She is the co-founder of the Worldwide Women’s Web and editor of the award-winning book The Fabric of the Future: Women Visionaries Illuminate the Path of Tomorrow. A member of the International Coaching Federation and a regular columnist for Living In Balance and The Works magazines, she is a popular speaker on what she is calling the modern virtues: kindness, gratitude, generosity and simplicity. Articles on her work has appeared in over 1000 publications, including USA Today and McCall's, among many other publications.


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