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Monday, October 26, 2015

What Do You Choose to Give Back?


We can't all be Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa. And we certainly can't all be those mega wealthy individuals who have given generously of their money to do good. Nor can we all be celebrities who thanks to their star power have been able to do much for the world in the arenas of war, child labor, sexual slavery, hunger, education, water, and a long list of other - as yet - globally unresolved needs. But I'm also thinking about my mother. She worked as a technical designer, but volunteered at a home where thalidomide babies and children were growing up. I'm also thinking of an aunt who never had a job, but she volunteered at a hospital where she read to the sick and dying. And another aunt, who also never had a job, who volunteered with orphans. All three are long dead, but they gave back and left a mark, albeit it small, in their particular world.

I'm also thinking of some people here where I live, such as one lovely woman who despite her exceedingly busy life volunteers with a charity and spends many hours not only talking to those in need, but just standing and packing up donations in baskets, and even delivering them when necessary. Another woman does volunteer fundraising for a hospice, and a third regularly visits the home-bound who are ill or can't easily go out, in order to bring a ray of sunshine into their day. Another friend has become the 'mother' of at least one child in a third world country, contributing financially to her well-being and education, but also developing a relationship with her that has spanned many years and that signifies that that child's life was expanded not only within the realm of financial possibilities, but also by giving her a much more global view of the world by mere virtue of this ongoing relationship with my friend.

And what of the many 'big brothers and sisters' who create a relationship with a child in order to mentor and befriend it? Or the ones who freely tutor those who need tutoring, or the many individuals who share their gifts of musical or other artistic talent with those who would like to learn but may not have the funds to pay for it?

Giving back furthermore, carries with it its own reward as has been pointed out in so many studies: altruism makes you feel very good indeed about yourself! (Have a look at the wonderful TED talk given by Matthieu Ricard about altruism here). Giving back is not hard because we all have something to give. What may be hard is making up your mind to do it. What are you giving back?

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