A few months after my dad’s wife died, Hospice contacted him and asked if he would be interested in volunteering with their patients. Before long he was visiting up to thirty, sometimes forty, people a day! My dad was 85 years-old; he had suffered a heart attack, leukemia, a broken leg, and a garden variety of other ailments. But I had not seen him as healthy or as fulfilled in years.
There’s actually a physiological explanation for his health. Researchers have found that endorphins are released in the brain that cause pleasant sensations when people give. As Arthur Brooks writes in his book, Gross National Happiness, a direct link exists between giving and happiness across the board: he cites studies that show teenagers who volunteer have higher degrees of self-esteem than those who don’t. One study of senior citizens in the Detroit area actually measured subjects’ happiness levels before and after a set of volunteering activities. After six months of volunteering, researchers discovered an increase of seniors’ “morale, self-esteem, and sense of social integration.”
Sometimes I find studies like those hard to trust. But after seeing my dad, I’m a believer. Created in God’s image, we were designed to give. For it’s through giving—whether in small acts of kindness or in making sacrifices that are dear—that we have the opportunity to fulfill our true purpose in life and write a better story.
So as we enter this season of giving be encouraged. Don’t let the hustle and bustle distract you from your call to imitate the servant nature of Christ. Like the Bob Dylan song reminds us, We’re gonna have to serve somebody…it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but we’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Let’s make it count for good….