Helping others is essential to being a well-adjusted human being. Some of us do it in our every day life, with simple acts of kindness, helping at the local food pantry, volunteering at our church, or participating in youth organizations. There is something about helping others that adds to our own feeling of personal self-worth and connection to our community and the world around us. Connection to others is not only an emotional experience, but a spiritual one, and we all need this kind of interaction, just like we need a hug and physical affection.
Those who only engage in “taking” and “one-upmanship” cannot be truly happy, as any relationship is a two-way street, and you cannot experience closeness and development of trust without reciprocal actions and feelings. Although we all have times in life where we may have to focus on ourselves for one reason or another, it is healthy to practice being “others-focused”. This doesn’t just benefit other people, but it benefits you as you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, and experience feelings of community and making a difference in other people’s lives. If you haven’t previously participated in volunteerism or charitable efforts, this may be foreign ground to you, and you may not know where to start. The key word here is PRACTICE.
First of all, I must agree that being more personally interactive will yield the most benefits, as this causes growth within yourself, and the effects are in real-time. Serving others directly allows you to see how your participation is affecting people and your community. If you can get out of your comfort zone and find somewhere locally to volunteer, it won’t take long before you question why you’ve never done something like this before, and make some new friends in the process!
Supporting charitable organizations financially can also be another way to practice giving of yourself. Perhaps you’ve thought about doing this, but didn’t know where to start, or are wary of which organizations you can trust to be fiscally responsible. Donating locally can be more personally rewarding, as you can see how your donations are improving your own community, and you may feel “safer” giving money to an organization where you can actually see results and believe there is more accountability. At the same time, there are many regional, national and international organizations that greatly need and deserve our support!
If you would like to venture into supporting one of these, I have found a website that offers some essential information to assist you in determining which charity (or charities) you would like to give to. Charity Navigator uses objective ratings to find charities you can trust and support. Their listings offer organizational, financial, and contact information for each charity, rate each one by accountability and transparency, and even provide “expert advisories” for organizations that may have raised some red flags. You can see the programs each organization offers and compare them to see which ones are more suitable regarding what efforts you would like to support.
Regardless of how you choose to start giving, I hope that you find it greatly rewarding, and experience personal growth as a result. It only takes one person to make a difference.