Saturday, March 22, 2008

You Get what you Give

Every so often I'll come across a piece of news or a study that sparks my interest enough for me to share it with others. As I was on reading about one of the new cornerbacks that the Patriots signed for this season, I saw this article in the "most read" listing off to the right. A new study is showing that money can indeed buy you happiness - if you're spending the money on causes that benefit others rather than yourself. This is a concept that isn't really in the forefront of most people's minds, and I think that our society has a lot to do with that.

Here's a case in point: Think of the last Super Bowl and the commercials you saw. There were commercials for the new Toyota Corolla, Hyundai, Cadillac, and ETrade. These are all things that encourage you to build up your own assets and squirrel away your money for your own benefit. We were bombarded with commercials to buy things that benefit ourselves. Sure, you could argue that you could buy your new Toyota Corolla and then start a pro-bono courier business picking up the eldery or something, but let's face it - the likelihood of that is extremely thin. Now think some more... do you remember a single commercial during the Super Bowl or World Series - two of the most watched television events - encouraging you to be altruistic? I certainly don't. The Etrade commercial had a great opportunity; the one with the baby? When the baby said "What did I do with all that extra coinage?", he could have said "Well, I bought myself a new shirt and then I took a homeless guy to lunch". Instead... he got a clown that admittedly creeped him out.

Now think of the last time you saw a commercial for the Christian Children's Fund (it was the first thing that popped into my head for a charity that does TV commercials). My guess - you were home sick from work or school and were lying on the couch. The last thing on your mind was helping other people; more likely you were trying to remember if you'd had enough orange juice that day or if you'd taken your antibiotics when you were supposed to. Most of the commercials I've seen for charities or other such altruistic things are buried in the depths of daytime TV or late late at night when everyone is sleeping.

And so, I'm bringing attention to this study to give it a little bit of publicity. It's not every day that you hear scientific evidence supporting the idea that giving is a good thing. There's tons of biblical evidence showing that God and Christ want us to give with our hearts (in fact, here's a Google Search for you on "Biblical Giving") and stories of the experiences of others. But for some people, that's not enough to be convinced; they NEED that scientific link to show them that it's concrete - and here is a study showing that. If the Bible isn't enough and the testimonies of lots of other people isn't enough - here is science saying it's so.

For good measure... a personal experience: I was in Boston with Steve and a couple of friends a few years ago. We were searching for this wine store called "Wine Sellers" or something like that and couldn't find it. We walked by a quiet old homeless man who was humbly whispering and asking people for money, just a small bit of change. As so many people do, we just kept walking and when we passed him, he quietly said "Have a good night, and God bless you". Steve and I looked at each other - all we had were larger bills and some advice in the back of our heads to not give homeless people a lot of money because they might "just spend it on booze". Someone was thirsty, so we ducked into a CVS to get some water. There was another homeless man at the entrance opening the door for people and holding a cup, smiling as people entered and exited. I bought the water and asked for the change back in ones. On the way out, I put 2 or 3 dollars in the cup of the man at the door. Then I turned around and gave my friends and Steve each a dollar, and kept 2 or 3 in my own hand. When we walked past the older gentleman again (we didn't find the wine store so turned back around to go the other way), we put the dollars in his cup as we past. His face lit up as he saw these dollar bills in his cup and he stood up excitedly.

"Oh, God BLESS you! I can buy dinner now, this is a whole meal! Thank you so much, have a great night!"

With that, he promptly tucked his cup in his pocket and ran across the street to the Burger King for a warm meal. I felt SO good for like, two weeks after that experience.

I fully appreciate that most people who read this blog are pretty altruistic in nature anyways and likely already give of themselves and their finances to various causes to benefit others. My hope is that maybe some websearch will land people here that might not typically think to be generous to others.

No comments: