Generosity is the primary foundation of Buddhist practice.
Outwardly people give things, they make offerings, but this act is ultimately based on the giving up of the self, about letting go of self- identity. It starts off practically, as making gestures by giving things we would normally think belong to us: my food, my possessions or my money.
However, behind this is the attitude of giving up ourselves in little ways. This helps to create a generosity of heart, an openness, a releasing of the heart, an undoing of self-identity. Through generosity we learn how to let go. This is an especially essential practice in the present time, when so much emphasis is on getting, gaining, attaining, possessing; all revolving round the self.
Generous people are less preoccupied with themselves and are thus more empathic and receptive to other people’s needs. They tend to be more friendly and hospitable, as well as more confident, easy-going and relaxed. Some of these qualities the Buddha recognized as benefits of generosity (A.III,39;IV, 79f), and they are all very supportive of spiritual practice.
This reflection by Ajahn Thiradhammo is from the book, Working with the Five Hindrances, (pdf) p. 38.