Note from Beth: As we head into the holiday season and year-end giving, I invited Amy Neumann to share some thoughts about giving and her new book, “Simple Acts to Change the World.”
Guest Post: Giving the Gift of Giving by Amy Neumann
“Nothing else in life is such a maker of joy and cheer as the privilege of doing good.” — James Russell Miller
Is there any feeling quite like the smile someone gives you when you just did even a small kindness? Perhaps it was simply because you were spontaneously inspired to do it. That feeling that giving creates is caused by real endorphins, sometimes called a “helper’s high,” in a reward process nature created to nudge humans to want to help each other and exist as a collaborative society. And it works! Humans love it.
All of us have experienced this many times. But sometimes we forget or get too busy living our lives to find opportunities to give. The point of giving is not just to experience the immediate thrilling feeling helping someone has, but to also enjoy the knowledge that you made a small difference. And then a maybe a larger impact. Maybe even a legacy. Great! That’s still not all. Maybe your passion got someone else to give, advocate, or volunteer. That might be the best benefit of all.
Simple acts change the world. Tiny actions, multiplied by a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, or a million people, are the ultimate building blocks for change. They add up. Big, broad changes are wonderful when they happen, but are harder to produce, and occur less often, than the ones you and I can do anytime, on any day.
Because of this, I was inspired to write a book, “Simple Acts to Change the World: 500 Ways to Make a Difference,” with lots of ideas that are quick and easy. There are ideas for people of all ages, with all interests and abilities. Some you’ve done, some might be new, and all are ready and waiting to serendipitously jump into your lap to happily greet you from any page you open.
(My daughter Isabella keeps it on her bedside table and once or twice a week opens it up to any page to see what good she can get up to that day. Her idea – love it!)
One of the greatest gifts anyone can give to another person, in my opinion, is the gift of helping others. Giving develops compassion and empathy. It inspires a true love for adding joy, alleviating suffering, providing comfort, creating beauty, fostering creativity, building confidence, and other important pieces of being human.
Over the years I’ve had countless opportunities to help others and give, often because someone introduced me to a new idea or organization. Each time I feel immense gratitude. Gratitude for the person who brought me such a fulfilling experience. Gratitude for the impact – no matter how small – that it might make on one person, or maybe more.
In spite of being in the social good space and writing about it often, I also get busy and forget to give. And after a while… I notice. Because I miss that genuine feeling of soft, warm happiness that comes from giving and helping. I feel like I’ll be able to breathe better and smile more if I go do some good for something outside of myself. And once I do something kind, or volunteer, or make a donation, or share a few good things, or even pause to truly feel gratitude, the world becomes more sparkly again.
Do you know anyone who could use a dose of the joy of giving? Maybe someone who has been too busy to remember? Someone young who is just learning? Get in touch with them and ask if they want to join you on a quick little giving adventure. And help them rekindle the joy and cheer of giving!
If you have ideas to change the world, please share them with me on Twitter @CharityIdeas, using #changetheworld or #500simpleacts. Over the next few months, I’ll be gathering them for a future project. You can also send any ideas with the contact form on 500SimpleActs.com.
Looking forward to hearing your favorite ideas to share the gift of giving!
Amy Neumann is a speaker and author of “Simple Acts to Change the World”