Giving More: You Gotta Start Somewhere

You know those people who spend almost their entire waking hours dedicated to helping others?  You may be one of them yourself, or you may, like me, simply watch them in awe and admiration.  They are modern-day saints: they toil away in war-torn foreign countries under unimaginably difficult conditions, or perhaps they spend 18 hours a day keeping a local battered women’s shelter afloat, donating every spare cent they have to charity.

I look at those folks and I think: why can’t I be more like that?  But the gap between my own well-intentioned but modest efforts and the constant selfless sacrifice of these saintly heroes--it just seems unbridgeable.  I feel guilty, but it feels just too difficult to make that leap.

But watching this week’s Juice video, which focuses on Giving More to Get More, I had a couple of belated revelations about generosity.

1. Altruism is something you can practice and get better at!

I’d realized I must have been subconsciously thinking of generosity as sort of an inborn trait, similar to  blue eyes or long legs or big boobs.   But generosity isn’t something you’re just born with, anymore than the ability to run an ultra-marathon is.  No casual exerciser just wakes up one morning and runs 100 miles.  Which means that for an average, occasional-donator-of-time-and-money sort of person, comparing oneself to those SuperSaints and then getting discouraged was actually not helping much.

Because, yeah, I’m not willing to sell all my belongings, live in poverty, and give everything to charity, or leave my spouse to go off to help others who live in destitution in remote parts of the globe.  But that doesn't mean I get to just walk away and say "I'm not like that."  Because I can certainly become more like that.  I can spend more time helping out at local fundraisers, or help pick up litter, or dig a little deeper into my pockets to donate to charities that help out those who have so much less than I do.

2. Opportunities are everywhere

The other revelation I had was that being more “giving” isn’t just about supporting officially-sanctioned charities.  This week's video reminded me that there’s plenty we can do within our own families, social networks, neighborhoods, and communities to be more thoughtful and generous.  It’s sometimes too easy to get careless and inattentive when it come to people close to us.  Even just small gestures, like a long chat with a lonely elderly neighbor, or a quick errand for a friend, or a thoughtful compliment, can make a big difference.  Can thinking less often of ourselves and more of others become a habit if we practice it frequently?  Heck, I don’t know, I haven't gotten that good at it yet!  But it certainly seems worth a try.

And if you’re looking for ideas for making the world a better place, there are lots of resources and encouragement in blogland!  Be sure to check out Just CauseHave Fun, Do Good , A Life of Giving,  and this Blogher interview with the founder of an amazing charity, Women for Women International.

Are you already a SuperSaint or do feel like you'd like to do more to help others?


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