I’ve been thinking about how to live a more generous life lately.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I have so much to be grateful for in my own life, it’s time to give back.  Or maybe it’s because now that I’ve got my personal life largely in order, I have the time and energy to think about someone other than myself.

Or maybe it’s like Winston Churchill said

We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.

What I didn’t anticipate is how hard it would be.

So in this post I’ll explore how we can get the most out of Mr. Churchill’s advice, and how you can participate in a very special giveaway.

On Becoming a Philanthropist

When we talk about living a “balanced life,” I think this is one part of the conversation that doesn’t get its due. Giving is one of the biggest and most under-appreciated sources of happiness.

Scientific studies back this up.  In the prestigious journal Science, researchers looked at the happiness levels of employees receiving an end-of-the-year bonus.  Those whose spent it on themselves saw no change in their mood, while those who spent the money on gifts or charitable donations has a significant uptick in well-being.

Thanks to the internet, there are a dizzying number of ways ordinary people of nearly any means can make real impacts in the lives of others.

You can equip high poverty kids with technology, you can sponsor an online art show, or help children who’ve been rescued from trafficking find their way home again. These examples are, of course, just to name a few.

Now, there are a multitude of ways to “give” to others without spending any money.  I not only acknowledge that, but applaud it.  In fact, I highly encourage people to design an element of “giving” to causes they believe in as part of their career.  Nothing will make your work more meaningful.

But if you want to add a financial component to your giving, as I do, there are two big questions you have to answer:

  1. What cause(s) do you want to focus on?
  2. How can you maximize your impact without losing the personalization that directly connects your actions to the end result?

Supporting great writing … and you

I’ll never forget my high school graduation, where I was supposed to give a speech as valedictorian. I worked on what I would say for weeks, then went to bed the night before with butterflies in my stomach.

That night, my Dad decided to “help me” by editing my speech.

Not just a word here or there.  He changed the order.  He inserted jokes.

I probably don’t need to tell you how upsetting that was. Ever since, I’ve been passionate about protecting and preserving the places where people can speak their minds freely.  It’s one of the things I love about having my own blog.

But in these days of self-publishing, we often forget the role that traditional publishers play in magnifying that voice and bearing witness to the joys and troubles of our time.

In my opinion, no magazine does that better than The Sun Magazine.  Here is how they describe themselves

The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges.

I could donate a sum of money to The Sun and I would feel great about it.  This is a magazine that has touched my heart and expanded my thinking immeasurably.  I get a surge of pleasurable anticipation every time I see it in the mail.

But I want to do something more than that.  I want to share it with you.

And isn’t that fitting?  Sharing The Sun with readers of Everyday Bright?  Yes, I think so.

So here’s what I’ve dreamed up as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for you, my darling readers: a dozen long-stemmed subscriptions.

How to win and give

In order to enter the giveaway, I suppose I could ask you to tweet this post or tell me you like me on Facebook or any such common technique.

Instead, I’d like to turn this into a kindness boomerang (to steal a phrase and sentiment from Life Vest).

To enter to win one of a dozen subscriptions to The Sun Magazine and help support one of the best places for artists and writers on the planet, leave a comment below this post with one act of generosity you’d perform if you won.

Your act of generosity doesn’t have to be financially based.  You could offer to help out at the local cat shelter or babysit the children of a single parent who lives near you.  I leave the creative act of giving up to you.

I’ll choose the 12 acts of generosity I most want to help bring into the world and announce the winners in next week’s post on Feb 19.  Winners will also be contacted by email for the mailing address you’d like to receive the subscription to.

All comments must be entered by Feb 15 at 8 PM GMT for eligibility for one of the 12 prizes.

Readers from any part of the globe are eligible, as long as you can get mail–I’ll even include the extra for international shipping.  My dear readers in Botswana, I’m thinking of you!

Of course, I hope you come up with an act of generosity you believe in so strongly, you want to follow through regardless of whether or not you win subscription.  It’s half the fun.

But I know one thing, not a single person will be disappointed with The Sun.

Here’s to making the world bright, one act of generosity at a time.