Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”
~ Henry Longfellow
Random Acts of Kindness and Generosity
This week we are celebrating Thanksgiving. I am hosting this year and I already know we have too much of everything. Too much food, too many blessings to count, and too many friends to fit around the table. It is a celebration of abundance and a humble reminder of those in need.
There is never a time when I am not grateful for what I have. I don’t take my life for granted but sometimes I become complacent and forget that for every bite of food I take someone else has an empty bowl. In fact, there are 47 million Americans; 16 million of them children, whose everyday reality is an empty bowl.
The start of the holiday season casts a renewed focus on those who are without the basics of food, clean clothing, and a roof over their heads. Bell ringers are outside stores, local towns are sponsoring food drives, and Toys for Tots boxes will be appearing as soon as the turkey is put away.
At work we are sponsoring a Thanksgiving food and clothing drive that will benefit a local men’s shelter. Our office manager knows a great deal about the people they serve and what they need. When asked if she had worked with them before she said simply, “my brother lives there”.
When I hear the word “homeless” I see the man holding a cardboard sign offering work for money or the ageless men and women in San Francisco setting up street beds for the night in downtown doorways. But the face of the homeless also includes people who have jobs but don’t earn a living wage, children sitting in classrooms and thousands of displaced military veterans. It includes a handsome, clean-cut man who is without a home, does not earn enough to pay rent, and lives in a shelter.
It is a reminder of how blessed I am and how easy it is to be generous.
Generosity Changes Things
Studies confirm volunteering and charitable donations have physical and psychological benefits: lower blood pressure, lower risk of dementia, less anxiety and depression, reduced cardiovascular risk, and overall greater personal happiness.
When people think about helping others, they activate a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, which is responsible for feelings of gratification. Generosity releases dopamine, an endorphin that blocks pain signals and oxytocin, known as the tranquility hormone. Doing good makes us feel good.
Giving makes our world a better place and improves the lives of the giver and the receiver. Local food pantries, shelters, hospices and even animal shelters benefit from random acts of kindness and generosity. Holidays amplify needs but opportunities for generosity are available all year long. Kindness inspires kindness and creates countless ways to pay it forward.
Do Something Good Today
There is a little Super Hero in all of us waiting for the opportunity to be randomly kind and abundantly generous.
- Winter is coming. Donate gently used jackets and coats to local shelters – many churches and schools hold clothing drives with drop-off points. Hats and mittens are bonus points.
- Drop your old cell phones off at a Verizon store. They reprogram them for emergency use and give them to women’s shelters.
- Donate old eye glasses – many vision stores have donation bins where your old prescription will benefit someone else.
- Volunteer your time. Senior Centers, soup kitchens and food banks are places where time is always a welcome donation.
- Don’t forget our four-legged friends. Local animal shelters are always in need of used towels and blankets and pet toys are always appreciated.
- Men’s white socks are one of the most requested items at shelters – a package of six costs around $5.00.
- Magazines are welcome reading at rehab centers, nursing homes and waiting rooms. Once you’ve read them, gather them up and drop them off.
- Visit someone who lives alone or has physical challenges. Bring along a cup of coffee and something sweet. Offer a ride to the store or a quick-ix project in their home.
- Pay someone a compliment – it’s priceless.
Be generous to yourself. Before you can become generous to others you must be generous to yourself. Take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically and yes – even materialistically. Give yourself the gift of time and use it to relax and unwind. Be generous when you spend money and time on your own well-being. Be generous at acknowledging you make a difference to others.
Practice random acts of kindness and generosity — big ones, small ones, simple ones, and amazing ones. Spend a little time thinking about it. You will never run out of ideas and you will never run out of generosity.