“The management of money and generosity were concepts I think I learned from my parents,” says Canon Judy Rois, executive director of the Anglican Foundation of Canada. Rois remembers that growing up, she and her sister were taught to divide up their weekly allowance: to save some, spend some and give some away. In learning to do this, Rois says, she learned about the benefits of giving. “There really is something inexplicably satisfying about watching someone unwrap a gift and respond with unadulterated delight. At the same time, there is great satisfaction in giving back to the world around us.”
This story opens the first episode of a new podcast from the Anglican Foundation. Called Foundation Forward: Ideas That inspire, the podcast was launched in August. It “invites Canadians to talk about generosity: why it’s important, and how they express it.” Short episodes, between five and 10 minutes long, are posted on the first Monday of every month.
Rois came up with the idea for the podcast a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There had been so many examples of generosity through the pandemic—some I experienced myself, and also I’ve had a front-row seat watching the recipients of the Foundation…. So being both giver and receiver of generosity has been profoundly meaningful, and I decided I’d like to ask a variety of Canadians about the topic, and see what they had to say,” says Rois.
“The generosity theme really appealed to me,” says Christopher Dawes, the podcast’s host, “because it’s not a simple and frank appeal for support—[though] organizations like the Anglican Foundation certainly need support. But it was more about understanding generosity as an outlook, as a worldview, as a way of life.”
Dawes—who met Rois when at St. James’ Cathedral in Toronto, where she was the vicar and he the organist and music director—had some experience with radio and had previously created a podcast as part of his graduate work in music criticism at McMaster University.
Dawes says he and Rois are both fans of podcasts, and that listening to them formed his opinions on their format. “I was always ripe to get back into it, especially something with an intriguing ideological premise to it.”
Rois says the show’s format was inspired by a podcast by Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and co-chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. “I came across his podcast where he posted short, intelligent, well-crafted talks on a variety of topics,” says Rois. “They were short, but they were so excellent in content that I listened to every one of them.” She was also inspired by the Rev. Bryan Pearson, a retired parish priest in Calgary, whose regular blog posts Rois found to be both concise and thought-provoking.
Pearson is featured as the guest in the podcast’s second episode. Rois lends her voice to the first. For these first two episodes of Foundation Forward, the guests wrote and recorded a scripted piece on their own, which Dawes edited into the podcast. While they expect to continue this format with some guests, others prefer to be interviewed, Dawes says.
The short and sweet format allows guests to tackle a huge topic—generosity—in intriguing ways without the burden of attempting to be comprehensive. “You’ve got a broad topic but no one person is going to cover it exhaustively. The idea is, in fact, that this person has one take on it and this person has another, and then gradually … a picture emerges,” says Dawes.
The December episode of the podcast is set to feature author Lawrence Scanlan, whose book, A Year of Living Generously: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Philanthropy celebrates its 10th year in publication. To write the book, Scanlan spent a year volunteering with different charities and organizations, a different one each month.
Scanlan “wrote about not just those experiences, but what he found himself discovering and what he found the world doing around him in this context,” says Dawes.
Other upcoming guests include Douglas Graydon, retired chaplain and director of spiritual care for the diocese of Toronto; Anglican writer Michael Coren; Executive Director of Aboutface (an Toronto organization serving those who live with facial differences) Danielle Griffin; and former dean of Christ’s Church Cathedral in the diocese of Niagara, Peter Wall.
“[Wall] says something that I love… ‘It’s a privilege to be asked, and it’s privilege to give.’ He always says, don’t be afraid to ask people, because it’s a privilege to be asked to give,” says Rois.
“People do give out of a sense of duty, but what the Scriptures say is [that] God loves a cheerful giver…. It is a privilege to have the capacity to give to others, whatever that might be—your money, your voice. It’s a delight to give.”
Generosity is a topic that has been on Rois’ mind—in addition to the podcast, she recently completed a book for kids ages 8-14, called Generous People are Everywhere. The illustrated book tackles questions like “what is generosity? What does it look like? What form does it take? Are generous people happier?” says Rois.
Generosity is by definition about going “beyond expectation,” Dawes says. “The world can be kind of dehumanizing at times, whether the systems that we work in, the systems of power, the systems of time and the way we live our lives. It can dehumanize to a great degree. But there’s nothing that brings you back quite like an act of generosity that you witness.”
Living generously is “something that we want to encourage in people that follow the podcast,” says Dawes. “The hope, eventually, perhaps, is that the Anglican Foundation benefits from donations as part of that culture. But we also know that people who adopt this way of thinking about generosity will enrich the world and the people around them so much, and that’s what the world needs.”