Contagious Generosity

Terry Lieb Living out your Faith 4 Comments

During a recent presentation on my 10-part wellness model, I was asked to give some examples to help illustrate what “financial wellness” looks like when put into practice. If it isn’t how much money you have (which I had explained it isn’t), what exactly is it?

I gave two personal experiences I had fairly recently, one involving a pastor I know from Pennsylvania and his wife, and the other a single gentleman of limited means. They each demonstrated an ease, security, and “financial freedom” that we can all strive for, regardless of our level of affluence.

Jim and Betty with the car the “kind of bought”

Catching up with my friend Jim on the phone the other day, he mentioned that he and his wife Betty had just “kind of bought” a newer, smaller, more efficient car from our mutual pastor friend, Mike, who he plays tennis with regularly.  This is the first time I ever heard of “kind of bought” before, so I asked him what the heck that even meant!

Jim explained that a few months earlier, after a tennis match, Mike looked over Jim’s older car and ask if he and Betty might be interested in a newer car since he and his wife Ellen had just purchased a new car and didn’t need the one they had. Jim quickly said Betty had been suggesting for quite some time that they look for a much smaller car that she would be more comfortable driving, parking, etc. Jim then asked Mike how much he would like to get for the car.

Mike said he and Ellen had already discussed it and they were hoping for $10,000 with special conditions. Jim knew the car was worth considerably more and told Mike he was somewhat uncomfortable with that low asking price. Mike told him he hadn’t explained the special conditions yet!

Mike proposed that Jim and Betty would give Mike $5000 which Mike and Ellen would then donate to their favorite charities! Then Jim and Betty would take the remaining $5000 and donate it to their favorite charities!

Obviously, Jim was completely caught off guard and to some degree speechless! Even recounting the story to me, he became somewhat emotional revisiting the experience and how it impacted them.

But it didn’t end there. And “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say, is that Jim and Betty then found themselves with a car they didn’t need. When they happened to mention this to Mike, he let them know of a woman at their church who had been unsuccessfully saving to buy a car for some time and the skyrocketing cost of used cars had put her goal even further out of reach.

Jim and Betty quickly decided this was a perfect opportunity to give back based on how they were blessed. I call this contagious generosity! I wish I could put into words the sense of joy and peace these folks radiated as I spoke with them about this experience. Everyone benefitted; Jim and Betty, several charities, and the woman who received Jim and Betty’s car, who wept with happiness at the gift. Even Mike and Ellen felt that they received far more than they ever would have had they sold the car at “market value.”

The second example of financial wellness that I shared with the group happened a few weeks ago when Rita and I were spending a week at Ormond Beach on the east coast of Florida. We were staying in a small efficiency condo on the beach. As I sat writing and enjoying my morning coffee, I had an amazing view of the Atlantic ocean. On several mornings I noticed an older gentleman wearing earphones and scanning the beach with a metal detector in one hand and some type of sand screening basket in the other.

The metal-detecting beachcomber seen from my window

He would occasionally—maybe once every 100 swipes?—use the screen basket to explore an area that evidently showed some potential for buried “treasure.” He worked at this faithfully for up to two hours some days.

On the day before our departure as I was packing the car, I noticed this gentleman with his equipment walking between the buildings and headed for his old pickup truck in the parking lot. Given my insatiable curiosity and fondness for talking to strangers (not a good idea for children and seniors, I’m told!), this was an irresistible temptation!

I approached the gentleman and ask if he had any luck on the beach this morning. First, he looked at me somewhat suspiciously, possibly suspecting I was on staff at the condo.

But then he quickly opened up and began to share his experiences as a beachcomber which he obviously thoroughly enjoyed. That morning he explained he had found $1.20 which he observed would not begin to pay for the gas back and forth between the beach and his home in a trailer park across the causeway.

I then peppered him with an array of questions that he seemed to welcome. “How long have you been searching the beaches?” I asked.

“Since my oldest son gave me this metal detector for a Christmas present, knowing I needed something to do besides watching TV. He’s a bright young man, who takes after his mother, and I expect knew it would interest me and provide me with much-needed exercise, a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary! I expect it’s been close to eight years now.”

I asked him what some of his most interesting finds had been and he told me that some of the most unusual had been pieces of metal off old sunken ships which had washed ashore.

“I have some in the display case in my trailer,” he explained with an obvious sense of pride. “What is really exciting is that two of the pieces I found are in a local museum! In some ways, I have contributed toward discovering and educating folks on our local history. Never thought I would do that!”

I can’t even say why, but I pressed for more examples of things he had found and I’m sure glad I did because the best was yet to come!

He started off by telling me that he occasionally found rings—mostly wedding bands and engagement rings—in the sand. When I said this must be a way for his hobby to pay off financially, he said while he sometimes did pawn a ring, this wasn’t what he liked to do. He preferred to return the ring to its owner. Whenever he found a ring, he would notify all the resorts closest to where he found it and leave his number at the front desk explaining that if someone lost a ring they should call him with a description.

“I am delighted to be able to get it back to them,” he said. “Now this has only happened about half a dozen times over the years, but one occasion really changed my life!”

Of course, I was all ears to hear this story and urged him to continue.

“It was a fairly large green stone,” he recalled, “not your typical diamond, so I didn’t necessarily think it was an engagement ring. But it was clearly a beautiful and probably expensive piece that someone would miss. I notified the resorts and almost immediately got a call from the owners who were easily able to describe the unique stone and setting.

“It turns out the ring had belonged to the husband‘s grandmother and he gave it to his wife when he asked her to marry him. It may have had financial value but what it obviously meant to this family was priceless! They had been frantic when they discovered it was lost and were sure they would never see it again. They were shocked when the hotel said the ring had been found.

“They thanked me to the point where it actually started to feel somewhat awkward,” he said. “I felt such joy and appreciation like I have never experienced before, especially from complete strangers! As I left the parking lot that day I wished I would have begun making those kinds of decisions—been more generous and open-handed—much earlier in my life yet, at the same time, I was glad to have gotten to that point even at my age!

“The following day there was a message on my phone to call the family back whose ring I had found. Since I had refused to take any money for returning the ring they ask if I would be willing to allow them to take me to dinner at a rather expensive restaurant that I had never eaten at before. They explained that it would mean a lot to them. Reluctantly, I agreed.

“All of their family that was vacationing showed up for the dinner and they had evidently even shared what had happened with some of the staff at the restaurant! The husband gave a speech after dinner explaining not only what the ring meant to the family, but then what conversations it created in the entire family regarding my decision to return the ring and refuse a reward. They were blown away and wondered what they could do in response to ‘pay it forward’ to others, not just me!

“The wife explained to the group that my act of unselfish kindness would likely have an impact on the entire family that they did not fully understand at the time! A young waitress approached me, quite emotional, and told me she thought I was the most sensitive and honest man she had ever met! I don’t cry much but I did that night!  I also realized immediately the family wasn’t the only one changed that night!”

I believe that the wife was absolutely right. We have no idea how this single act of generosity will ripple out across time, potentially affecting countless lives in untold ways. Even I—and perhaps, now you—have been impacted and inspired just by hearing about it! The ripples just keep on spreading…where they’ll stop, nobody knows!



  1. Have you ever been the recipient of a “random act of kindness” from a stranger or an extraordinary act of generosity that you didn’t expect? What did that feel like? Did it make you want to pass the feeling along?
  2. Have you ever had a negative reaction to being the recipient of a one-sided gift? Why do you think you felt that way? Does the manner/attitude of the giver make a difference?
  3. When have you given a gift that “gave back” more than the financial value? Does the amount of money/value involved determine how good the act of giving makes you feel?
  4. In our society, charity often means writing a check to an organization. What are some ways you could be generous financially that are more personal in nature? How does personal giving differ?
  5. Do you have extra items that you aren’t using or that someone else could appreciate more that you could donate? Who do you know that might welcome your items? Would you be willing to offer those items to others? Why or why not?
  6. Do you have a hobby/interest that you could use to help others? How could you convert something you already enjoy doing into something that benefits yourself and others?
  7. What holds you back from being more generous with your financial resources and/or your gifts and talents? How might your life change if you were more willing to let money flow through you instead of trying to hold on to it?







































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April 1, 2022 12:57 pm

Terry, loved the article. YOu did a great job. We are humbled by your thought to include us. And as you said, we got much more out of giving than did the woman who received the car. Blessings to you and Rita. Betty

Ron Wildasin
Ron Wildasin
April 1, 2022 2:26 pm

If we all had that attitude of feely giving without receiving in return, imagine how different the world in which we live might appear. That’s a great subject. Thank you.

Elsa B Heintzelman
Elsa B Heintzelman
April 2, 2022 6:26 pm

I enjoyed this blog so much. We truly never know the ripples of our kindness. I continue to knit prayer shawls and lap coverings, and deliver them to the physical therapy department at the health care center where I work part time. The therapists distribute the pieces to patients needing a bit of warmth or comfort. Ripples on the pond, spreading out in blessing: that’s how I picture them being given away.

Sue Barron
Sue Barron
April 4, 2022 10:29 am

Thirty-nine years ago this spring, my husband and I were on our honeymoon when Mike realized his newly-acquired wedding ring had slipped off his finger and was now somewhere in the Caribbean by our resort in Cancun. Although we gave our information to the resort folks, to this day we have never seen or heard of the ring again. Perhaps somewhere there is someone who found it or perhaps it is still buried under that crystal blue water. Your article was so interesting,Terry. We donate to many charities, and we feel that’s a great thing, but you helped me to… Read more »