May 6, 2014

Be Giving, Be Present, Be Happy. ~ Wendy Kuhn


My best Halloween memory is the year I was two or three and got to wear a bunny rabbit costume that was also pajamas. For some reason, coming home and getting into bed in my costume was awesome!

The worst memory is the year I dressed as a French artist, an epic costume fail.

The most significant memory is when all of the other kids said “trick or treat”, we said “trick or treat for UNICEF” and collected money in little cardboard boxes.

We usually, but not always, got candy too. I remember feeling awkward asking for money, but also special that we were doing something, making a difference. And, in those days, it was easy to believe that the nickels and dimes that we collected made a difference for children across the globe.

These days, being kind and giving are not always second nature to me. I get caught up in my own world or I worry about the appropriateness of donating to one organization or cause as compared to another.

It was interesting to learn that some people’s brains are more wired for altruism than others; they have more grey matter. But, even if we are not wired that way, we can still be altruistic and social processes can teach us that—like my parents teaching us to collect for charity at Halloween.

It turns out that giving actually makes us happier than receiving.

Research shows that being kind and giving to others actually increases our own happiness so much that we get more happiness from giving a gift than from receiving a gift. Moreover, the positive impact we experience from giving or being kind leads us to give more and be kind more often.

That’s an awesome kind of addition—doing things for others and getting the resulting “high” of happiness

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” ~ Richard Moss  

As I pondered these words, I thought about how often when I am talking to a friend, I am also preoccupied, checking email, cooking, paying attention to something else, or—probably worst of all—driving.

For the month of May, I am going to commit to truly listening to my friends and loved ones—without multi-tasking, without expecting anything in return, without worrying about how to respond and without thinking about what I need to be doing at that moment in time.

I will keep my heart where my feet and head are.

To me, this is an interesting gift because I need to do it without admitting to anyone that it is what I am doing (although I guess if they read this blog, they will know) and without expecting anything in return.

I am curious to see if and how this change will impact my relationships, my people, and me.

I am not saying this replaces my volunteering or my charitable giving, but it is, for me, an act of giving that truly requires a consciousness on my part.

Curious about acts of giving that resonate for my friends, I asked my Facebook friends what acts of giving or kindness they find rewarding. Here are some of the things that they said. I was intrigued by how many of them were anonymous, which, according to the Talmud, is one of the highest forms of giving.

  • Pay for the person waiting in line behind you, whether paying a parking toll or parking fee or buying them coffee.
  • Put money in a parking meter that is about to expire.
  • Help out at a soup kitchen. Or, have a sandwich making party and bring the meal to a soup kitchen or a shelter.
  • Give a neighbor a secret gift that is something you know they will like.
  • Drop off extra food or cleaning supplies at a food bank or local shelter.
  • Hold the door open for someone in a wheelchair or a person pushing a stroller.
  • Tip generously.
  • Say thank you.
  • Say (and mean) “Take your time, I’m in a no hurry” when someone is clearly fumbling or struggling.
  • Take a neighbor’s trashcan to the street on trash day (and return it).
  • Hold a baby. I cuddle babies at the local hospital. It is a volunteer job, but I would happily pay for the privilege, it feels that good!
  • Let someone in front of you in heavy or merging traffic.
  • Smile at a stranger of say good morning.

Do these resonate? Try one! Or add one to the list.

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Apprentice Editor: Marcee Murray King / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: clotho98/Flickr

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