Cathy Madavan shows us how the five love languages provide a great guide to generosity
If there is a time of year for being generous, surely this is it. And if ever there was a year for showing the people we love in tangible ways that we appreciate them, surely this is also it. But does generosity necessarily mean shelling out a fortune on gifts or filling ten shopping trolleys with food for the family? I hope not. In recent months I’ve been reminded of the many life-giving ways people can demonstrate love and kindness. They might not always cost a lot, but they are certainly worth a lot. Here are five generous gifts we can all give*.
1. Words of blessing
We moved from a ministry role earlier this year and received a book of messages as a goodbye gift. Alongside the book, many people sent us cards and long letters. Handwritten letters – remember those?! What a blessing. Words really make a difference – the book of proverbs in the Bible explains it metaphorically saying that our words contain the power of life and death. Words can build people up and tear people down. Words can encourage harmony or disunity. Words often linger in the memory for years. We can be generous with words of kindness, appreciation and affirmation in this season. Why not go above and beyond by blessing others with your words?
2. Physical proximity
We have got rather accustomed to the social distancing malarkey during the pandemic, dancing around one another in the supermarket aisles, following arrows and taking meetings online. It’s been unsettling at times, getting used to being up close and personal with others again. But proximity and touch are gifts from God – from cuddling a newborn baby to holding a hand on the hospital ward, reaching out to another human is precious. At this time of year especially, it’s worth considering those who might not be receiving embraces or high fives. OK, so we might not all be rampant huggers (I’m certainly not!) but even a touch on an arm is a connection. Let’s reach out if we can.
3. Practical help
You know what really floats my boat in my marriage? When my husband empties the dishwasher for me. I know. And they say romance is dead…Likewise, as we prepare to move house, I’ve been blessed by offers of help with packing and cleaning from friends. Let’s be honest though – it’s often easier to give help than to receive it, but the truth is we need to learn to do both. We all have needs, and we show love and know love when we are honest about that. Right now, somebody you know could do with some help, and you could be the answer to their prayer. Likewise, maybe you’re the one who needs a helping hand. Be brave and invite people in.
4. Thoughtful gifts
We all know that gifts are not supposed to be about the amount of money spent…and yet we do often fall into the cost equals value trap, don’t we? However, many of us are having to significantly downgrade our budgets this year while the cost of living keeps increasing. But we can still give with a spirit of generosity and joy, knowing that a gift can really communicate love and appreciation. A hand-baked cake, some flowers, a voucher for a cream tea – these are all gifts I have received this year that have lifted my spirits. What a joy that I can do the same for others (although nobody would want any cake I’ve tried to bake!).
5. Quality time
For me, love is spelled T.I.M.E. Quality time is my love language for sure. I think we all appreciate those who make time for us, don’t we? Time is our most precious commodity; it is limited and often overstretched. People have amazed me this year with how generous they have been with their time – a listening ear here, a Zoom prayer there, a voice message, a drive for coffee. Just turning up and being present is often the greatest gift we could ever give.
*With thanks to Dr Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, which you can find out more about at: 5lovelanguages.com