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This holiday season our anxieties are on the rise. The unnatural separation caused by COVID safety precautions and the stresses of our country’s current political divide, and the accompanying negative news is taking its toll.  Many people are feeling down, disconnected, and on edge.  Let me offer a prescription for surviving and even thriving in these difficult times.

Giving to others – whether we share our time, talents, or treasures – helps us keep our sense of connection alive.  Relatedness – seen as connectedness, love, belonging, and community – is part of who we are as human beings.  It is one of our basic, fundamental needs.   Freely and joyfully giving will help those around us, but it is also good for our health.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and reasons to give.  I hope they inspire you this holiday season.

Life’s persistent and most urgent question – “What are you doing for others.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reason #1: People and the nonprofits that serve them are in need. High unemployment rates have created unprecedented demand for basic support.  We see photos of the heartbreaking long lines at food banks. The Washington Post reports that twenty-six million Americans now say they do not have enough to eat, as the pandemic worsens and the holidays approach.  An unprecedented number of Americans face eviction, driving our nation’s homeless population to a new high.

Nonprofits, and other organizations providing direct assistance, need our support.  As a former nonprofit CEO, I fear that what started for nonprofit leaders as conversations about their sustainability during COVID have now become conversations about their survivability.  All while the number of folks asking for help, some for the first time, grows across our country.

This is a time to give-financially if you can.  Choose a nonprofit or cause that touches your heart and open your pocketbook or wallet.

If the pandemic has affected your own ability to give financially, give of your time to organizations on the front lines and behind the scenes helping others.  Share your wisdom and experiences with those leading and working to solve problems in our communities.

If you need to stay in and limit your interactions, look closer to home. You will not have to look far. There are needs in your own neighborhood and, possibly, your extended family.  Ask those you know, those you love – Are you okay?  What can I do to help?  Run an errand. Pick up the check. Drop off flowers.  Bring a little joy to someone else.

“For it is in the giving that we receive.”

– Francis of Assisi

Reason #2:  Helping others helps you. Giving out of your heart’s kindness is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  I encourage you to be incredibly open to all that you can personally receive in the giving process.

Giving elevates our personal happiness, improves our physical health, and I believe, grounds our spirituality. It is an under-appreciated strategy to better health.   According to Cone Health, you can experience lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and improved self-esteem by giving.

While leading the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee, I witnessed time and time again, the lasting beneficial effects that giving had on a donor, a volunteer, a mentor.  One of my favorite memories was an older woman who shared her delight in paying the college tuition of a young mother working multiple jobs. She confided that this particular “giving” opportunity clarified the privilege afforded her in her own life.  In that student, she saw how hard her parents had worked to provide for her. Through her generosity, she remembered her mom and dad. She was carrying forward their values of hard work and belief in the importance of education.

“When we seek for connection, we restore the world to wholeness. Our seemingly separate lives become meaningful as we discover how truly necessary we are to each other.”

– Margaret Wheatley

Reason #3: Giving reminds us that we are one – one human race and reinforces the humanity that binds us together.  Think of it in the context of “systems thinking” applied to the world in which we live.  When we give to each other – and when we receive from each other – we begin to experience and better understand our inter-connectedness with others and with our world.  We are reminded that what we learned in kindergarten, or in our place of worship as children, still applies as adults – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Always treat others with the same kindness you would like them to show you.  Giving is a great way to start.

Written By: Patricia Glaser Shea, Co-Founder & CEO, Givful and Co-Chair, Advisory Council, WBC