This time of year is truly defined by generosity. Let's do more than count our blessings. Let us be revived by the thought that we can actually feel an inexplicable affection for all. President Barack Obama asked us recently in a quite different context: What have we been put on earth for anyway?

These are tough times for many people. The middling classes, as Benjamin Franklin lovingly called his average fellow Americans, are no longer looking just for a job, but for a living wage with a future dream attached. The great thrift-based stories of abundant caring and sharing have always emerged at times of economic and social upheaval. In the face of industrial revolutions and post depression uncertainties, miracles do happen: Scrooge buys the turkey for Tiny Tim and everybody finally understands that George Baily is indeed the richest man in the world.

Generous behavior is a light that shines through the darkness.

Giving, informed by thrift, by what we have created, earned, nurtured, husbanded, invested in and saved, is all the more powerful. Look ahead. Make a plan.

Initiate a relationship. Take small things and think big. Give.

But there is one more thing.

In response to the question of how much one should give, one of the wisest practitioners of the art shared with me once this bright shining sentence: "Give just enough, until it hurts."

Real generosity carries with it always the sweet smell of sacrifice.

Give until it hurts — just a little. Honor both your thrift and your generosity. Thankfully, we have a whole new year ahead to increase both.

Andrew Kline is the director of thrift education at the John Templeton Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values.