The Friday Reflection – October 5, 2018

From Bishop David Rice

It is not too terribly often that I come across a book which moves, impacts and potentially, readjusts and amends my perspective and behavior. The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, I wish to suggest, is such a book. This is the tome about which I have spoken on several occasions over the last month. Specifically, I have talked about the ways in which “joy comes to us” and how self-examination and compassion for the other are the steps which lead to and result from said joy.

Contributors to the Book of Joy include: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They also have much to say regarding generosity.

In the chapter Generosity: We are filled with joy, we read: “Generosity is something that we learn to enjoy by doing. It is probably for this reason that charity is prescribed by almost every religious tradition. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, called zakat. In Judaism, it is called tzedakah, which literally means ‘justice.’ In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is called dana. And in Christianity, it is charity.”

In the same chapter we read:” Generosity is even associated with better health and longer life expectancy.”

In addition, we read:” So it seems that money can buy happiness, if we spend it on other people. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues found that people experience greater happiness when they spend money on others than we spend it on themselves. Dunn also found that older adults with hypertension have decreased blood pressure when they are assigned to spend money on others rather than themselves.”

And finally, we read:” When I met James Doty, he was the founder and director of the Center of Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford and the chairman of the Dalai Lama Foundation. Jim also worked as a full-time neurosurgeon. Years earlier, he made a fortune as a medical technology entrepreneur and had pledged stock worth $30 million to charity. At the time his net worth was over $75 million. However, when the stock market crashed, he lost everything and discovered that he was bankrupt. All he had left was the stock that he had pledged to charity. His lawyers told him that he could get out of his charitable contributions and that everyone would understand that his circumstances have changed. ‘One of the persistent myths in our Society,’ Jim explained, ‘is that money will make you happy. Growing up poor, I thought that money would give me everything I did not have: control, power, love. When I finally had all the money I had ever dreamed of, I discovered that it had not made me happy. And when I lost it all, all of my false friends disappeared.’ Jim decided to go through with his contribution. ‘At that moment I realized that the only way that money can bring happiness is to give it away.'”

Over the last month in each of our deaneries, we have talked about Project Resource, more specifically, we have talked about the ways in which we can encourage and foster a culture of asking, giving and thanksgiving in our lives, in our faith communities, in our world. I think the contributors of The Book of Joy are entirely correct, “Generosity is something we learn to enjoy by doing.” I pray we will come to enjoy it more and do it more.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8


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