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Never lend more than you can afford to give is good advice.

The idea is that sometimes well-meaning people borrow money or items and when pay back time comes around…um…stuff happens.   So, instead of being surprised when people can’t or won’t meet their obligations, expect it and if you do get paid, consider it a happy bonus.

But if you get the idea that regular folks are the only ones who struggle with borrowing or lending, you might be surprised to know it’s even got Oprah losing sleep.

Oprah recently told a TMZ cameraman that people ask for money based on what you think they have.  We’re not even going to delve into why Oprah was talking to a TMZ cameraman or whether he was trying to hit her up for money.  Oprah said when she was making $22,000 a year, people always needed $50, when she made $50,000 people needed $500, and now, nobody needs anything less than $50,000.

That’s a problem a lot of us think we’d like to have.

When most people dream of having millions or billions, they imagine money flowing so freely that they would gladly support their family and friends. But as any former lotto winner can tell you, free-flowing money costs you a lot in other ways and before you know it, you’re broke.

So, what’s the best way to manage your generosity?  Here are some nuggets of wisdom I’ve acquired over the years:

  1. Nothing is 50/50.  Don’t try to give or receive in equal amounts. If someone borrows $100 and you know that paying you back is just going to put them deeper in the hole, why not let them repay you another way? Maybe she can babysit or he can change your oil.
  1. Never underestimate the barter system.  Yes, cash is king but skill is a close second.  If you don’t have money to lend, you can bless others with something you do well.
  1. Don’t wait for people to ask.  How many times have you been pretty sure that someone had a problem but waited around until it became a crisis?  Lending some $65 to catch up for what’s owed at the child care center is better than lending them $150 to register at a new one.
  1. Don’t over promise. It’s better to do promise less and do more than it is to not come through on what you said you’d do.  That goes for whether you’re borrowing or lending money, time or talent.
  1. Be a matchmaker.  There are things you can’t do that others can and may be happy to do.  If they can’t, let them tell you themselves.  We miss out on so many opportunities for ourselves and others by not sharing what we know and what we need.  If I can’t put your weave in so you’ll look good for that interview, my BFF’s niece can. Let me call her for you.

I’m a true believer that positive energy is something we can physically pass from one person to another, but only if we’re not too hung up on getting back exactly what we give.  It’s a way to strengthen friendships, neighborhoods and villages in a world where parents and children are struggling to make it through the day. I don’t know how many more stories I can stomach about moms being charged with neglect for trying to do something as basic as earning money to provide for their babies.

When we open ourselves up to doing what we can to help someone else, especially a stranger, regardless of the outcome, good comes to us from places we least expect it.  And the only the only thing we owe is gratitude.

If you have examples how an act of kindness has come back to you in a way much bigger and better than you could have imagined, please share.

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Making The Village Stronger…One Act of Kindness at a Time  was originally published on