As the holiday season approaches, we all hear a great amount about the needs that exist in our community.
Struggling families need help putting food on their tables. Many need help providing holiday joy and care for their children or their elderly. We all will be asked to donate our change, to buy extra presents, to volunteer at a free holiday meal or a food bank.
We will want to give, and that is good — philanthropy creates healthy, robust and dynamic communities.
But here is something to consider as well: This act of giving can help the giver, perhaps more than you think.
Dr. Douglas Lawson examined this connection in his book, “Give to Live: How Giving Can Change Your Life.”
A successful life, he found, is full of meaning, cooperation and compassion. Americans know this — and through lean and prosperous years alike, we always have given more to charity than we did the year before.
There are emotional and spiritual rewards for helping others. Some see increase in self-acceptance, better concentration or an improved ability to cope with stress and crisis. Giving, to others, brings clarity, peace of mind, a greater connection to one’s faith.
And these rewards have been shown to manifest physically in longer lives, stronger health, better sleep, improved cardiovascular and immune system functioning and much more.
Much like stress can accumulate over time and cause negative effects, love and gratitude can add up as well. As Dr. Lawson concludes, giving can change America, but it can also change your life — and the lives of everyone in the community and far beyond.
These are the benefits when you make philanthropy a way of life, when you realize that the only way to live fully is to give fully. Giving, in a very real sense, IS living, because through giving we make our lives better in countless ways.
When we build this culture of giving, we build it to last for generations. Modern medical and social sciences agree that a person’s patterns of generosity are formed during the first four or five years of life. What we do as parents is especially important in determining whether our children become adults who share easily and support others.
As Dr. Lawson writes, when we give to others — when we share our time, our talents and our treasure — we do not end up with less in our accounts, but more.
Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.