Generosity Abounds

My dear friend Nancy has breast cancer. Many of you reading this could probably have typed the same sentence; the disease seems to be epidemic.

We anticipate a happy ending to Nancy’s difficulty even in the face of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, nausea, hair loss, fatigue and endless trips to the doctors who are optimistic. I’m writing about her challenge because I am once again moved to tears by people’s generosity.

Girlfriends go with her to chemotherapy and regale her with funny and touching stories to make the time pass quickly. Neighbors help get her trash cans out to the curb and back for weekly trash pick-up. Cards of encouragement and phone calls are received. Gifts arrive: colorful caps to cover her bald head; scarves to keep her neck warm, books to read; some co-workers even chipped in to pay for a personal chef to prepare meals that were frozen so they can be used as needed.

If all that weren’t enough to restore your faith in humanity, Nancy received an important gift that will go a long way toward keeping her stress level down and giving her ample opportunity to heal—she was given the gift of time. You see, Nancy works for an organization that allows employees to donate sick leave to co-workers. The people in Nancy’s mid-sized organization donated a total of 500 hours!

Some donors were close friends, others were acquaintances. The one that blew my mind was the man who donated 40 hours of his sick leave. He is about to retire which might cause you to think, “Well, he can’t use that sick leave anyhow so he can afford to be generous.” The truth is, when he retires he gets paid for any unused leave he has accumulated which means he gave up a week’s worth of income to someone he barely knows!

It’s so easy to forget how wonderfully generous and supportive people can be, particularly those with whom we spend a lot of time; they annoy us and we waste precious time wishing they were different than how they are. But would we want their annoying quirks to go away if it also meant their supportive hearts would disappear?

We are all admittedly guilty of complaining about family, friends and co-workers and yet, when you get hit hard by a crisis, most of them rise to the occasion and beyond. Think about those around you. What do you think they would do if you faced a crisis? Don’t you know, at a very deep level, that they would help in any way possible? Perhaps they already have.

Here is the secret that has been repeatedly documented by researchers and psychologists: these acts of kindness are more beneficial for the giver than the recipient. In fact, the ripple effect goes beyond that: the person who extends the kindness experiences a surge of well-being, the recipient also feels good and (here’s the kicker) anyone who witnesses the kindness experiences a rush of serotonin. Everyone wins!

Think about it—have you ever seen a news story about neighbors helping neighbors after a fire or flood and been proud of being human? What about a movie “based on a true event” that documented people’s generosity? Maybe reading this column did the trick. Whenever you witness kindness, you immediately feel good.

Please don’t wait for a disaster to reveal your naturally generous spirit. Be kind to your family, friends and co-workers. If you’re very fortunate, you will never have a crisis that causes you to discover how amazingly supportive they can be. You know they’ll be there if you need them so why not treat them with gratitude now?

The Law of Attraction says, “You attract more of what you focus on.” By being appreciative of people’s supportive hearts, you will find yourself surrounded by more who are generous and you will find people appreciating you for your generosity.

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