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I am of the firm belief that we are born to contribute… our time… our talents… our treasures. When someone contributes, it seems that we can improve our health both mentally and physically.
As I am in the throes of putting together our Second Annual FUNdraiser for a local Minnesota charity (Children’s Grief Connection and Hearts of Hope Camp), I am always amazed at who shows up out of the blue to help in some way or another. For example, I just sent out a Facebook message last night asking for help in getting donations for our raffle auction and first thing this morning I got a message from an old friend. She asked if I would be interested in getting a home-made, hand-embroidered baby quilt for a girl and one for a boy. This friend of mine has pretty serious (and chronic) health issues, yet she is still thinking of others instead of herself. When I sent her a response that it would be AWESOME to have those quilts, she sent me a message back stating, “I can’t do very much but I love to sew. At least I would feel helpful even if its nothing huge!!” Nothing huge? I beg to differ…
Another significant event going on in my life is having my ninety year-old mother move in with my husband and I a few weeks ago. The transition for her has been challenging because she moved from a small apartment that was her own personal domain to a home she now needs to share with two other adults and two dogs. As we moved through the past few weeks, she went through some of the stages of grief that we go through when we experience a loss of some kind. She became angry when I would try to focus on the positive aspects of the move. She went through the blaming stage, forgetting that she is the one who made the choice to move. Her depression deepened for a few days…
Then I had to go on an unexpected overnight trip for work and my husband was out-of-town which meant finding someone to come stay at our home to check in on my mom and puppies. When I discussed this with my mom, she told me that she could handle taking care of the dogs for two days and that no one needed to come stay with them. The woman who could barely shuffle down the hallway and sat staring off in space lost in her own thoughts now had a purpose because she could contribute… and she did!
My mom now has a couple of jobs around the house… she does the dishes and she folds the laundry. She has also dusted the furniture and picked discarded mail and papers around the house. She lets the dogs out when they are asking to go outside and she opens the door and calls out to them when she thinks it is time for them to come back in the house. I think my strong, independent and mentally sharp mother is back and all because she has found a purpose and a way to give within our family.
There are many studies on what volunteerism can do for health and happiness… just Google “benefits of volunteering” and you will see article after article and study after study that appears to prove that helping others (whatever that consists of) makes us feel better. There even is a study that volunteerism may be a way to counteract high blood pressure. The bottom line? Human beings are social creatures and when we are contributing, we are being functioning members of society.
So what are some simple ways to give unto others?
- Send a positive message out on Facebook. I have a Facebook friend, Jeff (a friend of friends and someone I have never met in person) who posts the most upbeat messages daily. The responses to his posts are overwhelming because he is contributing his words to help the rest of us feel good. I am pretty sure Jeff feels pretty darn good every time he posts one of these messages too!
- Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. You don’t have to run the show or break the bank in donations, just offer to help. As a co-founder of two charitable events, anyone willing to give a little of their time, talent or treasures is the greatest gift of all to not only the charity but also to themselves. Next time you volunteer to do something, check out the mirror… I would bet that you are smiling!
- Offer to give a ride to an elderly person who wants to go visit a friend or go to the grocery store. Our elderly are so appreciative of others who are willing to take a few minutes to hang out with them.
- Join a group at work to raise donations for a local cause. We have a committee at work who plans fun team challenges to give school supplies and Christmas gifts to those in need. People love to be engaged in a little friendly competition all while knowing that they are helping others.
I challenge you this week to do one small act of kindness and contribute in some small way to another.
What will be your one contribution this week?