Is it better to give a thousand dollars to one person, or one dollar to a thousand people?
I still haven’t quite decided what my answer is.
One the one hand, a thousand dollars has the potential to make a much greater impact on someone’s life than a single dollar. I recently read about a couple who, while traveling the world and working remotely, started an organization that gives $1000 to individuals in extreme poverty. Giving a large amount can have a tremendous effect on someone’s life, and can be an extremely rewarding and humbling experience for the giver.
On the other hand, giving one dollar to a thousand people teaches you to give indiscriminately, to fight against any tendencies to assume that you know what this person is going to spend the money on. You may not make a large impact on anyone’s life, but you can bring a little more joy and abundance to a thousand people’s lives, which is also incredibly powerful.
Let’s put the receiver aside for a moment—what scenario is best for the giver? According to the Talmud, it’s better to give one dollar to a thousand people, because when you are compelled to reach into your pocket and share with someone else a thousand times, you grow your capacity for giving.
Maybe now I do not have the financial means to give a large sum of money to an individual in need, but I can, and most people can, push myself to give a little bit each day. The only way to build a habit is to do the desired task over and over again until it becomes second nature. If and when the day comes that I have more means to give larger sums of money, or more of my time or other resources, my hope is that I will be conditioned to give, and will more readily share with those in need.
Growing Your Giving Muscles at Work
Share credit as much as possible. It’s easy to feel accomplished when you can mark that task off as “done,” but remember all the people that contributed to that work. Humbly recognize that you are just a part of the picture, and acknowledge (publicly, but perhaps more importantly, to yourself) others.
Ask yourself “how can I help?” before thinking “what can I gain?” We all (or most of us) work to make money, so it’s easy to think, “I am working, therefore I do what it takes to make more money.” Generosity doesn’t work that way. As the saying goes, the more you give, the more you get, so before asking a coworker to help you with your project, or going in for the “ask” with a prospective client, stop to think: what value can I add to this person’s day/experience? When you can train yourself to first ask “how can I help?” before “how can I give?,” you will find yourself giving and getting a lot more.
Think about the next steps so others don’t have to. One of the most stressful parts of any type of business relationship is trying to anticipate the other person’s next move. By clearly communicating the next steps of whatever process you are engaged in, you are being courteous of the other person’s time and emotions. This make take some extra work on your end, but is worth it for the value you bring to others, and to yourself.
How else can you practice the habit of generosity at work?