Kristen Killinger, MS
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso
When it comes to charity and giving to others, it’s easy to think about the impact made on the receiver, but what about on the giver? Whether you are giving or receiving, offering the service of time and charity can boost both mental and physical health.
Through volunteering or providing services, those who contribute to others live longer and happier lives. The range of health benefits from giving include lowered blood pressure, lessened stress, decreased anxiety and depression, and increased self-esteem and self-worth. Further, volunteering causes the brain to release endorphins and oxytocin, natural “happy-inducing” hormones, which boost your immune system. So, not only do you feel happier when you are giving to others, you also are promoting a longer life and better health for yourself.
Feeling lonely? Providing a charitable service provides an instant connection with others. Subsequently, your actions can cause a trickle-down effect, encouraging others to follow suit. Also, volunteering gives you a sense of purpose, which decreases feelings of loneliness and alienation (isn’t that imperative after the last two years of social distancing?).
Don’t want to go alone? Call a friend and make it a regular event! You’ll both give and receive positive vibes that can help build a lasting bond with one another. Generosity is also related to empathy, which motivates us to continue to want to do more for others. Similarly, it is correlated with feeling more satisfied in your own life and career. Thus, generosity is a demonstration of kindness and intention.
Worried about the cost? As Steve Goodier once said, “Money is not the only commodity that is fun to give. We can give time, we can give our expertise, we can give our love, or simply give a smile. What does that cost? The point is, none of us can ever run out of something worthwhile to give.” Thus, there are many opportunities to give that are either low-cost or free! Below are some ideas to help get you started:
- Paying for the order behind you in a drive-thru or at a store
- Donating supplies to organizations
- Preparing or delivering food/baked goods for those in service industries (e.g., hospital workers, firefighters, police, etc.)
- Taking a senior neighbor to an appointment
- Making care packages for children, troops, seniors, or those with terminal illnesses
- Putting together hygiene kits for shelters
- Participating in walks/runs that raise money for charity
- Creating and maintaining a Little Free Library, where neighbors can take/trade books
- Knitting or crocheting blankets/hats and donating them to shelters or organizations such as The Red Cross (www.redcross.org) or Octopus for a Preemie US (see their Facebook page for more information)
- Cleaning up local parks/walking trails
- Visiting those in nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities
- Helping out at local food pantries/soup kitchens
- Helping at kids’ activities or fairs
- Donating blood
- Assisting a senior neighbor with yard work
- Reading for story time at a local library
- Tutoring/mentoring students
- Organizing a summer reading program
- Volunteering at an animal shelter
- Organizing a fundraiser for a family in need
- Volunteering at your local domestic violence shelter
- Planting extra seeds and donating your abundance
- Downloading an app like Charity Miles to earn money for organizations
- Hosting a car wash and donating proceeds to a local organization
- Switching your Amazon Prime account to login through Amazon Smile (smile.amazon.com), and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchases to an organization of your choice (you can choose Folium, Inc!)
- Downloading and signing up for the Be My Eyes app that assists people who are blind/visually impaired by pairing them up with individuals without visual impairment via video chat, to help with a need (e.g., identifying medication, finding an object in a store, adjusting thermostat, etc.).
If you are already giving, thank you and keep it up! If not, I strongly encourage you to give it a try! As you now know, the benefits will be for both you and the person to whom you give. And, if you have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!