It’s an old truth and a sure truth that says nothing gives you more pleasure than when you give to others. While assisting charities and those who are struggling adds fundamental purpose to one’s life, it actually achieves more than that. Giving creates a worldwide network of support that is continually improving the lives of others, communities and the way we express our humanity.
Why doing good does us good
Mood enhancers: The act of making someone else feel better actually improves our mood. There is a response centre in the brain that produces dopamine and endorphins that make us feel good with ‘rewarding’ feelings. We feel happier and more fulfilled. Sometimes there’s an almost self-serving aspect to giving because so many people report that it makes them feel better and gives them as much pleasure as the receiver enjoys. If you’re feeling depressed the answer is to find someone you can help. There’s nothing like seeing the good results of your actions to know that giving can be the best feeling there is.
Improve your health: When you feel good with an improved mood, you improve your health as well. Just as physical activity can improve feelings of strength and wellness, reduce stress and lower the blood pressure – the same can be said of mood enhancement and feelings of happiness. Older people involved in volunteering often prove increased cognitive functionality and physicality; they are able to walk and climb stairs with greater alacrity, showing an all-round higher rate of health than those who do not volunteer their time.
Strengthening personal values: When we are grateful for our own lives, it triggers feelings of obligation to others. If we’ve been brought up to value people and the environment, then we live with high expectations of our own behaviour and that of others. Personal values and principles are important in our interaction with other people; empathy and compassion are crucial to building a fair and equitable society. A well-developed social conscience goes hand in glove with a sense of responsibility and fairness. Helping others is not a chore, it should be seen as a privilege and a way of living in line with our personal beliefs.
Be the light: When family and friends see that you are donating or volunteering regularly, they will be impressed – and very likely encouraged to do the same. Giving is an inspiring action. It is also good bonding…when you join forces to support a cause or charity relationships are empowered, bringing you together to achieve a goal. There is something in common immediately, something to keep you engaged and motivated as a team. We live in a global village and doing good together with visible results can have a ripple effect, radiating out across the world.
Teaching your children your values: When your children or other members of your family, see you giving selflessly to others who are less fortunate or in difficult situations, they learn that this kind of compassion is a good thing. Children love to help others – it’s a natural urge from a very young age. Nurture this basic sense of generosity, support it by demonstrating your own caring, and they will develop the joy of giving that will last throughout their lives, learning that it is possible to make positive changes in the world. Make supporting a charity a natural part of your life, and they will follow your example.
A meaningful life: People who get involved in good causes meet other people of like mind. Developing friendships and connections in this way, helps to give more meaning to your life. You will be working with people who are as passionate as yourself about making an impact in underprivileged areas or with people who are mentally and physically disabled. Helping those who are less fortunate than yourself is always inspiring, and can truly uplift your own life and increase your influence in your community.
Choosing your recipients: Many people choose their charities carefully. Who they support is often an important factor in the ‘feel good’ sphere. Some find that sponsoring a child through early schooling to college can be most rewarding. There are many facilities that assist the poor from night shelters to soup kitchens, and there are valuable organisations that support the mentally or physically disabled. Helping people who are less fortunate than yourself is always fulfilling, but sometimes these choices are made because we have experienced a similar situation or know of people who have had to deal with children who struggle with drugs or alcoholism. When we have been close to suffering, it can influence the way we view life and how we should contribute. Making those choices can help us to come to terms with aspects of our own lives.
A little can be a lot: The most important thing to realise is that you don’t have to beggar yourself to be of use. Most agencies receive thousands of small amounts – and it’s surprising how this adds up. You don’t have to be in a position of particular financial income to be able to contribute. And most agencies don’t ask for that. A small, regular donation that can be relied upon is often worth more than one random large payment.
Time is also money: If financially donating is difficult, then consider spending some time once a week or month to help out where you can. Many pensioners find that having duties to undertake regularly gives them purpose and satisfaction. There is no greater happiness than seeing the positive results of your direct work. Find a charity of your heart, and ask how you can help. You could find yourself involved in national or even international agencies of good works, building a wider involvement and a broader life for yourself.
Improve employee morale: Corporate social investment has been shown to improve employee engagement, productivity and motivation. Employees like to feel they are contributing to more than just the company’s profits. This sense of giving back provides upliftment and purpose to many people’s daily work. In addition, the company enjoys an improved public image, increased profits, and tax breaks.
Tax deductions: There is of course, the minor matter of money. If you give, you may receive. You can write all donations off on your tax returns, and may receive a useful deduction for your efforts. Charities, however, have to be approved, so be sure to check this out if this is an aspect that concerns you. Giving to others is a way of paying tax in itself, with the added benefit that you will know where the money is actually going. And if you can garner a tax return on your efforts, then so much the better.
The story of Sunfield Home
Twenty years ago, Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 100 residents and day-care adult individuals.
Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.
Find out more about us at: www.sunfieldhome.co.za