Shakespeare famously wrote- giving is “twice blessed,” it blesses the giver and the receiver. And nowadays there are so many different ways to give (including being prompted at every checkout line to donate to various causes and being able to text donations from your phone) that we almost overlook the power that giving has to transform not only the lives of others but our own lives. The religious model tells us that we should give of “our time, talent and treasure.” And while I strongly believe in the importance of giving money to worthy charities and causes as our sacred duty as the most privileged beings on the planet, I find that it is in giving my time or talent to something or someone that I care about that I receive the great gift that comes from giving; connection, gratitude and sometimes even a kind of grace.
There are many studies on giving that show that people who give are happier. In fact, the University of Notre Dame has a Science of Generosity Initiative that is focusing on studying the causes, manifestations and consequences of generosity. This initiative is exploring how people can realize acts of generosity as essential to not only their ability to connect and transform the lives of others, but as an essential component to their own happiness.
I recently read Arrianna Huffington’s book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder,” (which I previously noted in my prior blog post about rest as promoting the power of sleep). Ms. Huffington posits that an essential component of this new metric of defining success is Giving. In Thrive, she asks us to “imagine how our culture, how our lives, will change when we begin valuing go-givers as much as we value go-getters.”
At this time of year when we pause to give thanks and to remember the gifts, big and small that we have been given, let’s also think about where we have room to give. This can include donating to worthy causes, to our religious organizations and to charities doing amazing work to help people in our community and the world around us. But it can also include giving of our time and talent; small acts of kindness, moments where we reach out to help someone, and being present for the people in our lives and in our community.
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