Learning How To Be Generous Again

Whatever I had was yours, until a crook squandered my nest egg. Then I learned how to be truly giving.

by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Photograph: Illustrated by Aad Goudappel

It will take years for our family’s financial ship to be entirely seaworthy, but these days I’m again able to give a little to those causes and establishments that matter, as well as to sometimes help out my three older kids, now 24, 26 and 29—even if that means just treating them to a rare dinner out or putting a full tank of gas in one of their very old cars.

I’m also more inclined to keep my support quiet, and not because I’m embarrassed. Privacy turns out to be freeing. I do only what I can, without incurring—or creating—a feeling of obligation. And since tragedy is a teacher, I’m careful to make sure our own emergency fund is fed first.

I do wish, of course, that I still were able to be one of the big donors. It made me happy to banish people’s pain and worry with a wave of my pen. From the receiving end, I know how important that is. But my relationship with giving is different now. My time and personal touch are more valuable than I ever realized. So valuable that in the long run, they may be worth even more than the fast Band-Aid cure of a fat check.

JACQUELYN MITCHARD is a New York Times best-selling author and editor-in-chief of Merit Press. Her latest novel is What We Lost in the Dark and her last story for More was "Hey Mom, I'm Home!" in the Decmeber 2013/January 2014 issue. She lives on Cape Cod with her family.

Next: 9 Beliefs About Money That Can Hold You Back

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First published in the March 2014 issue

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