How Does Gratitude and Generosity Operate in Your Life?


Today is Generosity Day. Last year Sasha Dichter, Acumen Fund, and several other key colleagues in the social enterprise space launched an effort to re-boot Valentines’ Day into Generosity Day – great idea, right?!!! It occurred to me that gratitude and the feeling of abundance in your life has a large role to play in one’s generosity. So, I wanted to pose the question: “How does gratitude operate in your life?”

Many people ask me some version of “You have such an incredible job. How did you get to do this?” I tell them about my path of creating event s for ultra affluent families at en executive conference production company  and then at a private bank, my first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, amassing great contacts in private foundations and not-for-profits, and inevitably committing most of my vacation time visiting organizations doing great work in the field.

But that’s just the obvious part of the answer.

The other and more important part is gratitude and the feeling of abundance in my life – it’s, quite frankly, the fuel that enables me to go out in the world and do what I do.  Much of that gratitude is due to my amazing family – my parents, in particular.

My parents emigrated from the Philippines to the New York area in the late 1960’s, when I was very young. As immigrants to this country looking for a piece of the “American Dream,” it was all about getting a practical job, buying a home and leading a more comfortable life.

When I became a VP at a private bank and making a nice salary, my parents were in heaven – exactly what they had dreamed of for their daughter. But when I left four years later, after my first safari in sub-Saharan Africa, to pursue I was not sure what, that is when I felt their tremendous belief and support most deeply.

First there were the periodic inquiries of “So when are you going to get a job?” Then when they realized that I was not going back to corporate America, despite their concerns, they backed me: unwavering, unconditionally, financial support, moral support, and as an endless cheering section.

As I thought back, this was not the first time I had experienced their support. Yes there is a financial aspect to it and the many sacrifices to provide all sorts of opportunities for me and my brother, but are thousands of other instances throughout the years. For example, when I was in first grade, my father met with my elementary school principal because his six year old daughter wanted to be a schoolyard monitor even though it was a job only given sixth graders. (They made me a monitor, by the way, and I got a shiny tin badge…and responsibility.) To this day, my mother starts to prepare all my favorite dishes and stocking my favorite foods before I even reach their home in Florida. It’s gestures like this which speaks volumes to the soul.

I am so grateful to them. They gave me a sense of true abundance in life, and they make it possible for me to do what I do. In fact, it is in their honor that I do what I do.

It is the feeling of deep gratitude and abundance in your own life that fuels generosity towards others. So, on Generosity Day, think about what you are deeply grateful for in your life, and return it to the world in caring actions, both big and small.

(Photo credit: Taken of me at a high school in Ghana last summer by John Canning.)

Relevant Links for Generosity Day:

Fast Company –

Sasha’s Generosity Experiment talk on TED:


~ by Maryann Fernandez on February 14, 2012.

One Response to “How Does Gratitude and Generosity Operate in Your Life?”

  1. Maryann, this article made me cry! I only came across your BLOGS while I was following some work related articles. It is so true that we have such an amazing and supportive family. We come from a line of strong, resilient but most importantly, loving women and I am so proud that you are following in those footsteps. In terms of a “cheering squad”, we all revel in the achievements of the next generation (yours and all your brilliant cousins)! Here is wishing you much success! God bless!

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