I am typing this post while sitting in a hotel room in Washington D.C. and it just happens to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. How serendipitous that I am typing about the value of altruism in our nation’s capital on a day that has now become recognized as a national day of service. Today, as I flew to D.C. for a business trip, my two teenage sons were back in Colorado helping to install free smoke detectors in homes in at-risk neighborhoods as a part of a volunteer project through the American Red Cross. As they were busy making a difference in our town, others all across the nation were joining together on various philanthropic projects to help make their communities and our nation as a whole, a better place for all citizens–something that I believe would make Dr. King extremely proud.
According to Dan Baker, Ph.D. and co-author of the book, What Happy People Know (Rodale Inc., 2003), this notion of altruism (the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others) has been determined to be one of the top twelve contributing factors to a FabYOUlous life.
Giving with out expectation of reciprocation is one of the fastest and easiest ways to feel good about yourself, your world and life in general. Altruism fosters these feelings of well-being because it “connects you to others, gives you a purpose, and gets you outside of yourself” says Baker. There is no denying the fact that having a positive impact on someone else’s life helps to generate feelings of goodwill that, in turn, minimize any negativity that might be occurring in your own life.
There are so many different ways to give back and make a meaningful contribution–all you have to do is look around. Could your elderly neighbor use some help shoveling his driveway? Maybe your knitting group could knit chemo-caps to donate to your local hospital? Perhaps you could organize a neighborhood food drive to collect items for your local food bank? Even the simple act of holding the door open for someone else can increase those feelings of well-being for both you and the recipient(s) of your kindness.
If you have a bit more time to commit and you’d like to get involved on a bigger scale, consider donating your time and talents to a nonprofit organization whose mission aligns with your values and passions. Most nonprofits are run on shoestring budgets and rely heavily upon volunteer contributions. In fact, according to The Nonprofit Times (a publication that I, as the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, read religiously) the average dollar value for one hour of volunteer time is $23.07. Enough of those volunteer hours added together can provide substantial budget relief to a nonprofit organization that is struggling to deliver its services. If you’re not sure where to start or what organizations are in your location, check out www.volunteermatch.org for a list of local organizations that are in need of help.
Whether you are able to contribute in a large or small way doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you know in your heart that you are giving of yourself to benefit someone else. No act of kindness is ever wasted and incorporating more altruism into your life has a ripple effect that positively impacts you and others who are touched by your generosity of spirit. It leads to truly FabYOUlous feelings for all involved.