Tell everyone you know – the secret to happiness has been found! Though it’s not really much of a secret if you think about it: when was the last time you felt like your glass was filled to the brim and perhaps even overflowing? It probably wasn’t sitting on your couch watching yet another fabulous episode of “Scandal” or when you finally found those amazing boots you’d been scouting for over the last several weeks. It probably wasn’t even watching the game – though I do love my Seahawks! I’d be willing to bet it was when you gave something of yourself away. I have found this to be true in my life – I feel like my life has the most purpose and fulfillment when I am giving time or resources to others, so it should be no surprise to me that Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith found that over and over again, those who gave of their time and money were actually happier, healthier and feel more fulfilled. Let that sink in for a minute: giving of yourself can improve your overall health and sense of well being. Wow!
Dr. Smith’s findings, as summarized in Richard Stearn’s recent Huffington Post article and recently published in Dr. Smith’s book “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose” are quite compelling:
- People who give away 10 percent of their income are 10 percent more likely to say they are very happy and 5 percent less likely to say they are unhappy.
- The more you volunteer, the happier you are: People who say they are very happy also tend to volunteer almost six hours per month. People who are neither happy nor unhappy volunteer less than three hours per month, while people who are very unhappy spend less than 0.6 hours per month volunteering.
- People who volunteer report feeling better and enjoying better mental health than people who don’t volunteer, even though they have the same number of doctor visits and hospitalizations.
- People who give or volunteer are more interested in pursuing personal growth.
It kind of makes you want to make this a question you ask anyone you might potentially date, befriend, hire or allow to watch your children, huh? “So, we seem to have a great connection here, but I really want to ensure that you are volunteering at least 6 hours per month before we move on in this relationship . . . ”
In my own life, I tend to generally think of myself as a glass half full kind of girl, but something really changes when I am regularly engaging in giving of myself to issues I’m passionate about. I transform from glass half full girl into my cup runneth over girl: I am so much happier, more energetic, more positive, feeling like my life has a true purpose and knowing that I am doing something to make a positive impact on this world. If you don’t know what that feels like, you are missing out and I encourage you to find your passion. For me, my passion has always been kids; I am also passionate about veterans and military families.
The truth is that some people on this earth CANNOT make their circumstances better without help: those who spend every waking hour in search of filthy water to drink cannot attend school and become the engineer who will build wells in the remote villages of Africa, the small boy in Pakistan who must labor long hours under dangerous conditions so that his brothers and sisters can have a small meal each day cannot become the police man he dreams of being, the young girl who is kidnapped and spends her days trying to survive her life as a sex slave cannot teach the next generation of girls in her village in Bangladesh that they are just as valuable as boys.
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask him?”
“Because I’m afraid he would ask me the same question.”
And so I take care of tiny humans in the church nursery each Sunday, I advocate for children living in extreme poverty and I teach middle and high school girls their strength, worth and value. We sponsor four girls around the globe and give to other charities that help underprivileged children. I only make this list because I believe myself to be a very normal person with a very normal schedule of working full-time and raising two young girls, yet I prioritize others as well and yes, it is a sacrifice, but one that pays dividend after dividend after dividend. If you are not engaged in supporting others with your time, skills and/or money, you are missing out. Whether it’s been building a program to support veterans in a Fortune 500 company, making blankets to comfort foster kids, writing letters of encouragement to my sponsored girls or changing dirty diapers, I don’t regret a minute of time I’ve given to another.
If this note has inspired you to share of your financial resources with others, I, of course, have to make a plug for one of my favorite charities, World Vision. They have been transforming lives around the globe for over 56 years by working to alleviate the root causes of poverty in some of the poorest and most forgotten places in existence. For only $35 per month, you can be a part of the story of a real human being who is experiencing real suffering. I don’t know about you, but my mom never had to feed me mud so that my hungry belly wouldn’t keep me awake, or fear that my ear infection would be a death sentence to me, or cry as she sent me off to work in a dangerous factory or mine so that my younger siblings could survive. You can make a difference today – for yourself and for another human being. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not found myself missing roughly $7 per week. Click here to find a child just waiting to be a blessing in your life