November: National gratitude month and Giving for giving’s sake
Giving in a variety of ways—volunteering formally (e.g., Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent de Paul) or helping neighbors or friends—gets us out of self. As volunteers, we are women, men, and children for others. We glean from our volunteering experiences lessons and perspective to take back to our lives. We may become more resilient as the difficulties we dealt with (or were consumed by) seemed more manageable—or even surmountable—after seeing what we saw and feeling what we felt.
We know philosophers and saints extol the benefits of giving:
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
-Saint Francis of Assisi
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”
“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
One thing that people often wonder is whether giving to satisfy requirements (or to improve a resume) is the same as giving for giving’s sake? fMRIs told us that pleasure centers in the brain didn’t “light up” as much when a subject was forced to give money to a food bank as compared to giving money on her/his own fruition.
I believe that giving counts no matter the reason or rationale. Giving engenders generosity, resilience, perspective-building, and empathy. It may be that giving for giving’s sake enhances the generosity felt, the resilience built, the perspective developed, or the empathy cultivated.
Kahlil Gibran, one of my favorite writers, poignantly ruminated on this topic:
“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not the pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with the mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.”
With National Gratitude Month alive and well, how can you celebrate? Apart from giving thanks to veterans, family and friends on (before and after!) Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, here are some ideas:
November 13th (was) World Kindness Day
Make your own World Kindness Day at home. Clean the refrigerator. Offer to help a sibling with his homework. Call an elderly relative or neighbor. Prepare greeting cards for your local VA or children’s hospital. Make posters for an infusion center.
November 24 (the day after Thanksgiving) is the National Day of Listening
On the National Day of Listening, everyone is supposed to share stories. David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps and a Macarthur Genius, founded the day because “every life matters equally, every voice matters equally, every story matters equally.”
Check out the StoryCorps site. Record someone tell a story or listen to one or a few of the thousands of stories already on the site. Isay’s remarkably important project is democratizing oral history and creating an archive of American voices. Join in and be inspired by Isay’s observation that “listening to people reminds them that their lives matter.”
Cheers to this month of giving.
“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
#wellness #gratitude #selfcare