This article by Wendy Romano originally appeared at myCentralJersey.com on August 1, 2012.
Events this week got me thinking about generosity, starting with two amazing news stories.
One was about James Aton, a truck driver in Pennsylvania, who noticed an incapacitated driver in a tanker truck. He stopped his own truck, ran alongside the slowly moving truck, jumped in, and steered it safely off the highway.
The second was the video of Steve St. Bernard, an MTA bus driver who rushed to catch a child who fell from a third-story window in Brooklyn.
Closer to home, family members dropped everything to help us when we had major car problems. I was heartened by the generosity of these people. Helping others became the highest priority of the moment. It was natural to put everything else on hold.
How many generous people do you know? They don’t necessarily have to donate lots of money, but they volunteer their time and are always ready to help with a smile, expecting nothing in return.
Are you a generous person? This may be surprising, but if you are, the chances are pretty good that you are happier and healthier than others who may not be so inclined to give.
The Bible counsels us to give support to the stranger, that “God loveth a cheerful giver. My favorite verse from II Corinthians is to give “that … your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want.” I understand that to mean that the good I give will come back to me.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, put it quite eloquently when she wrote, “The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good.”
So, giving freely is a good thing to do. But I began to wonder if all this generosity could have health benefits too. Apparently, it can.
A study by the University of Michigan in 2003 concluded that generosity not only improved mental and physical health but actually contributed to increased longevity. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are taking a closer look at the benefits of generosity.
Jennifer Hamady, writing for “Psychology Today” (Feb. 17, 2011), noted that generosity gives us an opportunity to knock down the imaginary boundary between us to discover that “miracles – personal, professional, and performative – are possible.” Lisa Firestone, a doctorate writing for the same magazine (Nov. 24, 2010), noted that generosity is contagious, creating a snowball effect of good deeds in others.
I’ve found that generosity grows from an increased awareness of the needs of others. Small acts of kindness can snowball into a lifetime of opportunities to bless others and be blessed ourselves. Such acts can leave us breathless and humble, wondering what the world would be like if we each were prepared to give freely.