'Tis the season of giving. The stores say so. The songs say so. The TV shows say so. But have you ever thought about what giving really is or why we should do it? As a company, Walton Communities has established eight "Basics" that act as guiding principles that drive our decisions as individuals and as a company. One of those Basics is "BE GENEROUS" It is listed because generosity is at the heart of loving others and showing care for other people. But did you know that it might just make you happier in the process?
In a recent study done by the HeartMath Institute, the group found that the heart contains cells that synthesize and release hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine, among others. It was also found that the heart also secretes oxytocin, commonly referred to as the "love" or "bonding" hormone. When you are lending a helping hand, your oxytocin level goes up, which also helps to relieve your stress (something in large supply during the holidays). Altruistic behavior may also trigger the brain's reward circuitry — the feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins. However, the hormonal benefits of the good deed depend on the genuine intent of the act of altruism. So, it matters WHY you do what you do. A 2006 Gallup Poll found that people who donated to charity reported greater satisfaction with life. It also found that while money does not necessarily make us happy, how we spend the money we earn can, indeed, bring happiness — especially when we spend by giving to others.
Each year, Walton Communities hosts a Single Parent Christmas Banquet in honor of our single parent residents. The day is intended to inspire and encourage single parents who are raising their young children alone. The event also helps to meet needs by awarding gifts and prizes to single parent residents. It is widely known that some of the recipients of these gifts are pre-selected and some are totally random. Giving is always fun, and it always makes everyone feel good, whether they receive a gift or not. But something remarkable happened last week at Walton Oaks in Augusta at the party there. As the prizes were being given away, one young single mother had won $300. As she walked back to her seat, she stopped and said, "I'd like to give $100 of my gift to someone else." Everyone in the room gasped. But that wasn't all. Another resident then won $500. She elected to give away $200 of her gift. By that time, everyone in the room was in tears. The generosity of one person had become contagious. Here were two single parents who chose to be generous to others in the same way that others had been generous to them. They did, as the Walton Basic says, "recognize the blessing of giving which is the reward."
So, in this season and in all seasons, be generous. Do something for someone else. Offer a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, a hug, a meal an act of kindness or even meet a financial need, if you can. You'll be happier for it. Your own stress level will decrease. And you will make a real difference to someone else, and in the process perhaps encourage them to pay if forward. It just doesn't get any better than that…everyone wins.