By Catherine Lang-Cline
Let's be honest. Sometimes after doing everything that you need to do to keep your own life on the rails, it seems that you are too tired to help another individual, or there's simply, not enough time left in the day. But that's not true, you're just thinking too big. You can start helping others and in return, start to reap more happiness in your own life.
When I was growing up, my family didn't have much. My parents stretched their one income to cover themselves and their five children, but when things got really tight, they relied on others to help. Not sure if it is why I am charitable, but I am immensely grateful for everything that I have worked for and do believe that if you work up to a certain point it only becomes greedy if you don't give back in some way. It starts with determining what you can do.
The three "T's" of charity are; time, talent, and treasure. If you have absolutely no time, start simply by writing a small check. Many organizations can take all the small checks they receive and do some really big things with it. The size of the check does not matter, but where you put it may. Even a small amount to a cause that you believe in will make you a part of that cause. A few dollars toward someone's goal for a race or drive will make you feel part of the team. Your donation can go toward things that are even more game-changing. Buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a family, Christmas gifts for a small family or individual, there is no end to the giving that can be done to immediately change the life or lives of people. Yes, I have bought Christmas gifts for a family. On the list, socks, towels, blankets, very basic needs that are sometimes just an impulse buy for us. Do one of these acts once and year if that is all you can do. It does make a difference.
Do you have a particular talent? Organizations are in desperate need of skills that you are not only good at but really love to do. Maybe you have skills in IT, cooking, accounting, cleaning, driving, marketing, design, planting a garden, you get the idea. Many organizations need you! Think about causes you believe in, diseases that have affected your family, things that bring you joy. Contact one of those groups and see what they need help with. It does not have to be a big commitment, maybe it is just a one-time thing. One of my favorite gives was painting a plate that would be auctioned off for a local charity. I have artistic talent and love painting so it was perfect. It took about two hours but the joy I felt doing it lives on and I wish I had the time to do another plate!
Time is a big luxury. It is very precious and very difficult to just give away. But this kind of giving back could be the most rewarding. If we plug it into that talent you have, some of the things we just mentioned, spending the time to do things that you love, that ends up benefiting others, is the pinnacle of rewarding. For example, I serve on boards that aid the arts, business, and women in leadership. I am passionate about all of them and make the time to serve on those boards. It is replenishing my soul just as much as it is giving back. If you don't have the time for board work, think about activities in which to get involved. Maybe extra hands are needed for planting an urban garden, mowing lawns for the elderly, stuffing envelopes, being a ticket-taker at an event. It could be minutes or hours. All of it is rewarding and will make you happier. Stack up a couple of activities throughout the year. There is also mentoring. If you have fought adversity, if you have life lessons to share, or maybe just want to give a person better perspective, think about becoming a mentor. You would be surprised how much you can help an individual and how rewarding that feels. Still not feeling a connection? Maybe you can contribute in a way that is all on your own?
This Chinese proverb says it all--
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help others.
Helping others has brought me happiness and a full heart and I am pretty sure that it could work for you too. Why? You are doing something that gives you joy. You are being a part of something you believe in. You are making a difference in someone's life, in a big way or in a very small way. It will not only make you feel amazing, but it will be your own impact in this world. Not only do you tell others that they matter, but that you matter. Volunteering and working with charities has changed my life. Even the smallest of investments I hope that you will find it in yourself to find the same happiness. Give.