Generosity: Lessons from Ghana

Gratitude is the foundation for generosity

I was thirteen when I had my first experience of life in a much less economically developed country. My dad invited me to join him on a trip to a small down called Agona Swedru, a few hours drive from Accra, the capital of Ghana. It proved to be a life-changing and worldview altering moment.

The first thing that struck me was just how poor the living conditions were for the vast majority of people I encountered. Their homes were often little more than shacks, their access to clean water extremely limited, and their general living conditions unlike anything I’d witnessed back home in the UK.

As a thirteen year old boy, I was horrified seeing and experiencing how these people lived. But a second thing quickly struck me as I spent time with them. They had a contentment with life and a sense of gratitude for what they did have that truly shocked me. Further, they radiated a deep sense of joy that made no sense to me based on their circumstances.

As well as the contentment, gratitude, and joy, their generosity was overwhelming and their hospitality boundless. The little they had they saw not as theirs to keep or own or possess, but rather to share with others and to bless people with. So many people, despite having so little, went out of their way to express generosity towards us — and that only served to make the blessing all the more powerful.

The main lesson I took back home with me from this trip, and it’s a lesson I’ve held onto and tried to live out ever since, is that gratitude is the foundation for generosity. When I appreciate that everything I have in life is a gift to be thankful for, it frees me to share more easily what I have with others. But for some reason it seems that the more I have in life, the more difficult it is to do this.

Somehow, living in a more economically advanced country, I have ended up taking so much for granted. I all too quickly develop a sense of entitlement. I become focussed on owning and possessing rather giving and sharing. And as I forget to be grateful for all that I have in life, it becomes easier to forget to be generous to those around me. Sadly, the more I have in life, the most susceptible I become to being self-absorbed about my own ‘needs’.

My experience in Ghana is a constant reminder to choose to be grateful for everything, and to choose to be generous no matter what, regardless of how little or much I feel I have to give. Living life gratefully and generously is so much more fulfilling.

Are there things in your life you’ve started to take for granted? What could you do to make gratitude a part of your daily life?

Originally published at

Generosity: Non-reciprocal giving

Generosity: You don’t have to be rich