This was today's Daily Dharma email from Tricycle magazine:
The Importance of Giving
Giving needs to be practiced and developed because our underlying tendency toward attachment, aversion, and confusion so often interferes with a truly selfless act of generosity. An act of giving is of most benefit when one gives something of value, carefully, with oneâ€™s own hand, while showing respect, and with a view that something wholesome will come of it. The same is true when one gives out of faith, respectfully, at the right time, with a generous heart, and without causing denigration.
- Andrew Olendzki, "Dana: The Practice of Giving"
I would like to point out one thing that strikes me as particularly "Buddhist" about this message, which is the emphasis on practice. From a Buddhist perspective, skillful behavior (what we might call virtue) is not seen as a gift from outside ourselves, nor is it necessarily something that we are born with. Rather, we learn to act skillfully by a sort of apprenticeship -- we look around us for models of good behavior, and then we diligently practice until we ourselves acquire the skill to act virtuously.
May we all become models of generosity in a needy world!