How Ants Taught Me About Generosity

3 min Article Learning & Wisdom
The rewards flow back in many beautiful ways when you do things out of goodness and without condition.
How Ants Taught Me About Generosity

A bar of gold can be an incredibly generous gift — in the right context. Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Generosity goes beyond the material act of donating large sums of money to a charitable cause. For some, being generous involves imparting spiritual support and guidance, while for others, it’s intangible assets like time and compassion.

We have this idea that giving money is more important than any other kind of act and can solve all of our problems. That’s not to say that money can’t be helpful, but it’s not the only way to be generous — and not necessarily the most effective, either. We need to be judicious when we think of what generosity means and how it may be perceived by those receiving it.

Putting Generosity Into Perspective

If you gave an ant a pound of gold, the insect probably wouldn’t be very grateful.

What can an ant do with a lump of gold other than being crushed by it? If you gifted an ant a pound of gold, the offering would probably remain right where you left it, untouched.

If you were to come by later and see the pound of gold abandoned, you would probably feel agitated, frustrated, angry, and resentful — after all, that was a generous gift! But by whose standards?

The ant doesn’t feel so blessed by your generosity. For the ant, gold has no value. It can’t sell it, eat it, break it up, share it, or even regift it. It is nothing more than a heavy lump — entirely worthless. A pile of breadcrumbs would hold more value to an ant.

You may not receive as much attention for offering breadcrumbs as you would for offering gold, but you will have done more good. Truly being generous means making a conscious effort to meet the needs of the recipient, whose ideas about kindness might be very different from your own. 

Setting Intentions Through Compassionate Practice

As illustrated in our tale of the ant and the block of gold, generosity doesn’t always mean giving money; it means giving yourself in a way that benefits and positively impacts someone or something.

During the pandemic, I have witnessed numerous acts of generosity, including community members offering to go grocery shopping for the elderly or disabled, providing food and supplies to people in need, and donating masks to individuals working the front lines. Even small acts of kindness like checking in on a neighbor, spending time with a friend in need, making space at your dinner table, and sharing a laugh can make a difference.

There are so many acts of generosity that are meaningful, lasting, and free.

The government probably won’t give you a tax receipt for this kind of generosity, but the reward of positively contributing to someone else’s wellbeing is so much greater. When we start creating good intentions, our hearts grow bigger, and our lives become richer.

Maybe the outside world won’t see your actions, but your world is within you. Make that world a good place; keep that world clean and wholesome. Do that, and you will be known for your authentic generosity and kindness.

True generosity is about humility, not acclaim or fame. The rewards flow back in many beautiful ways when you do things out of goodness and without condition.

You don’t need a tax receipt to show compassion — you need a good, kind heart.

Header photo: frank600/iStock/Getty Images Plus

About the Teacher

Nicolle Kopping-Pavars

Nicolle Kopping-Pavars

After starting her career as a lawyer in Southern Africa in 1996, Nicolle Kopping-Pavars immigrated to Canada in 2008 with her husband, 1-year-old son and three suitcases. She had to completely rebuild her career in order to become accredited in her new country. She was successful in doing so, but something was missing. “Even though I was doing what I loved and what I believe I was called to do, I started sensing something dark lurking in the depths of my soul and I didn’t like it,” she says. Thus began her personal self-development journey, in which she read a lot, attended mindfulness retreats and workshops, and became a reiki practitioner. Although she was feeling better, she looked around at her colleagues, all of whom were stressed and overwhelmed, and felt she could do something more. From there, Nicolle committed to a yearlong teacher training certification focused on mindfulness in law, and in 2017, she went to Thailand for two weeks to deepen her practice and study with the monks in the northern part of Thailand. She furthered her teacher training by taking an intense teacher training course in the Forest Monk Therevada tradition. Nicolle founded Lotus-Law to introduce meditation, mindfulness and emotional intelligence to the legal profession and to the public at large. In 2020, Nicolle rebranded her practice as the Transformational Lawyer, through which she brings all her disciplines — law, reiki, energy work, crystals and mindfulness — under one umbrella.
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