Tag Archives: generosity

Helping as only you can

This is National Volunteer Week.

Scene: A regular Joe driving home to see his family after a hard day. He comes upon a beat-up, broken-down car along the side of the road.   This average guy, named Jim, doesn’t hesitate to stop and see what help he can give to the stranger standing nearby.

The year was 1929.  Life was difficult.  And it would not get better for a long while.  It was a desperate time when daily life for many revolved around one thing: looking for a way to stay alive.  It was also a time, interesting enough, when generosity abounded.

Love and its manifestations of giving, kindness, and compassion have long marked the best of human nature.  Whatever impels someone to give of himself even when he has little to offer has pulled many individuals through difficult times.

Scientific investigation on the effects of love in our lives has uncovered some interesting findings. The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, founded at Case Western Reserve University, has been looking into the subject.  Part of its mission statement includes answering the question: Does the sincere love of neighbor contribute to the happiness and health of both those who give it and those who receive it?  Read more….

Exterminate that bah-humbug and feel healthier

Jim Carrey, Kelsey Grammer, Susan Lucci, Beavis, James Earl Jones, Fred Flintstone, Albert Finney, and Tori Spelling are just a few of the actors and characters to have portrayed  Ebenezer Scrooge in variations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  I just watched the George C. Scott version the other night and am still hoping to see the Muppet adaptation and Bill Murray’s comedic modern-day revision before Christmas.

What’s the appeal? There is something about an old, miserly curmudgeon obsessed with money and power acknowledging the depths of his misery and awakening to a lost sense of generosity that melts the heart. What can I say?

If you count them all there have been over 200 different undertakings to share the classic story of the transformation of a miserable old soul into a giddy and happy benefactor.  It is a story that resonates in our culture and speaks to every heart regardless of age or nationality.

During that fateful Christmas Eve night when confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Scrooge remembers to love.  And his love is embodied in giving. And his generosity changes his whole demeanor for the better.

An infestation of bah-humbug thinking pesters all of us from time to time. Helplessness, hopelessness, poverty, despair, and a host of pesky doubts can swarm us and even compromise our health.

It turns out generosity can snap us out of the humbug funk and improve our well-being. And more Americans are figuring that out.

“Beneath our culture’s obsession with wealth and power, status and celebrity, millions of Americans are quietly engaged in a deeply religious struggle to wake up from petty selfishness and to embrace a life of benevolence and compassion,” according to Stephen Post, researcher, author and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics in the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (SUNY). He began his research career at Case Western Reserve.

Post and two colleagues, Dr. Matthew T. Lee and Dr. Margaret M. Poloma, associated with the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love and the University of Akron, have collaborated on a new bookThe Heart of Religion: Spiritual empowerment, benevolence, and the experience of God’s love.

The book focuses on a new national survey conducted to establish data about Americans experiencing God’s love and its impact.  They found that over 80% of respondents acknowledge they “experience God’s love as the greatest power in the universe.”  A similar number report to feeling “God’s love increasing their compassion for others.”

I will attest to that! I think one of the most profound statements in the Bible is “anyone who does not love others does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:8)  There have been so many instances where reaching out to others has enriched me.

Once, I was driving on a cold, rainy day and happened to notice a woman standing by an uncovered bus stop. She was drenched. I wanted to get home. It wasn’t until the next block or two that it dawned on me that I should help her in some way.  But the bah-humbug excuses began infesting my reasoning.  What could I do?  I needed to get home. I was busy. She might be fearful I if approached her.  So I went on.

By the time I reached the next stop sign, my conscience was in overdrive.  GO HELP! This time I listened and acted.  After driving around the block a couple of times, I found the woman still waiting for the bus and looking pretty pathetic.  I stopped, got out of my car and went up to her and asked if I could take her somewhere.  She declined.  I offered my umbrella and she accepted with much gratitude and a big smile.  Driving away I was happy that something as simple as an umbrella could bring about such a change in demeanor…hers and mine.

Generosity is more than a fuzzy, warm feeling.  Bigheartedness has a health component. Participants in the Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare, reportthat “volunteering made them feel physically healthier”. Other findings include:

• 89% report that “volunteering has improved my sense of well-bring”

• 73% agree that “volunteering lowered my stress levels”

• 92% agree that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life

“Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us,” writes Mary Baker Eddy, a religious leader who studied the measurable effects of God’s love on health and well-being.  And while the concept of giving to enhance life might seem counterintuitive to a Scrooge-like mentality, evidence supports the notion that a generous lifestyle has healthy benefits.

Dickens sums up his Christmas tale this way.  When referring to Scrooge he writes, “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

May your holiday be humbug free.

 

Giving is living

Scene: A regular Joe driving home to see his family after a hard day. He comes upon a beat-up broken-down car along the side of the road.   This average guy, named Jim, doesn’t hesitate to stop and see what help he can give to the stranger standing nearby.

The year was 1929.  Life was difficult.  And it would not get better for a long while.  It was a desperate time when daily life for many revolved around one thing: looking for a way to stay alive.  It was also a time, interesting enough, when generosity abounded.

Love and its variants such as giving, kindness, and compassion have long marked the best of human nature.  Whatever impels someone to give of himself even when he has little to offer has pulled many individuals through difficult times.

Scientific investigation on the effects of love in our lives has uncovered some interesting findings. The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, founded at Case Western Reserve University, has been looking into the subject for a decade.  Part of its mission statement includes answering the question: Does the sincere love of neighbor contribute to the happiness and health of both those who give it and those who receive it?

In a recent newsletter, Stephen Post, founder of the institute shared these stats from the 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare and VolunteerMatch:

68% of those who volunteered in the last year reported volunteering made them feel physically healthier

89% reported “volunteering has improved my sense of well-being”

92% agreed that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life

Jim didn’t know about this data when he volunteered to help the stranger get his car going.  I suspect it was out of a sense of duty and privilege, an unconditional love.  The men were of different race and came from different cultures, but Jim only saw a neighbor in need. Turns out the man had a wife and several children with him in the car.  They were homeless and looking for work when the car would not go any further.

It would be enough that Jim got the car running that day, but he didn’t stop there.  Jim had an abandoned house on his property that he offered the family to use as long as they needed.  Love knows no bounds. The place was fairly dilapidated, so Jim fixed it up while the family moved in.  The home had no heat, so Jim went and got an old Coleman stove he had stored away.  The family had no food, so Jim’s wife brought them what she had from her own pantry.

The stranger had no job, so Jim helped him find one. The family had no friends, so Jim’s family befriended them.  That’s unlimited love.  Jim’s philosophy in life was “giving is living.” If this encounter with a stranger is any indication, Jim knew how to live.

It has been said the hole through which you give is the hole through which you get. Yet, getting is not the goal of unconditional love. Post shares this advice: “We should never count on reciprocity because this is sure to be frustrating and ultimately small-minded.  Better to take joy when those upon whom our love is bestowed do not ‘pay it back’ to us, but rather ‘pay it forward’ to others as they move through life remembering our good example.”

The stranger and his family stayed in the house for several months before finding a permanent job in another town.  They gave back to Jim and his family all they had, their love and respect.

Post quotes Thoreau: “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”

As the Do Good Live Well Survey indicates there are mutual benefits to selfless love:   the recipient’s needs are met and the giver feels healthier with a strengthened sense of well-being.  Seems like a win-win. Giving really is living.

Sincere thanks to my good friend, Maureen, who shared the account of her father, Jim, with me recently. 

Igniting the “givers glow”

One of the most recognizable characters in literature is the parsimonious Ebenezer Scrooge.  During the Christmas season, he, Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim step into the spotlight as The Christmas Carol takes center stage on television and in theaters.

You can find a different version of the classic tale on TV any given day during December.  I watched the Muppet adaptation this past weekend and the George C. Scott version last night. Bill Murray does a comedic modern-day Scrooge that is fun to see.

If you count them all there have been over 200 different undertakings to share the classic story of the transformation of a miserable old soul into a giddy and happy benefactor.  It is a story that resonates in our culture.

What lesson does Scrooge learn during that fateful Christmas Eve night when confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come?  He remembers to love.  And his love is embodied in giving. And his generosity changes his whole demeanor.

Professor and researcher, Stephen Post, refers to this new persona as the “givers glow”. Post authored The Hidden Gifts of Helping and is president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.

In a holiday message, Post shares some insights about love and giving.  It turns out that the “glow” that comes from giving isn’t wishful thinking.  Participants in the 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare, reported that “volunteering made them feel physically healthier”. Continue reading Igniting the “givers glow”