The reward for giving and volunteering-Prairie Doc

Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:33 am

The reward for giving and volunteering

Philosophers have argued for years if humans are capable of giving without the benefits outweighing the costs. That question turns around the value of feeling good about doing good. Other experts define altruism as giving only for selfish gain, which is different from giving as a selfless act, which is different from giving as a duty. Another researcher said that selfless acts seem to come more often as the other guy’s needs become more desperate.

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Richard P. Holm MD

I am convinced, whatever the motive, when the result is helpful then the act is still good. There are many examples in my life of people who have helped me without a lot of expectation of reward, starting with my parents. I remember at least two piano accompanists who selflessly had to listen for hours at my various attempts at trumpet and singing solos; and then there was Bob Lee who gave up his limited time-off to be the chaperone on a very rigorous Boy Scout canoe trip to the boundary waters. Lots of giving for little return!

I think the shining example of altruism in our society is in the field of education. When I think back on all the DeSmet teachers and coaches who mentored me and my classmates, from grade school on up, I am filled with warm gratitude for the examples of compassion, fairness, and worlds of knowledge that poured forth from those poorly-paid prairie tutors.

There are many studies that prove a strong connection between volunteerism and giving with health and wellbeing. One four-year study in a group of 55 and older volunteers indicated that their generosity resulted in a 44% reduction in death rate. Another indicated that not only are kinder people happier, but that happier people are kinder. Apparently generosity increases right along with measurements of sad to happy. What’s more, gratitude goes hand in hand with kindness, helping both the giver and the receiver.

So, why do people volunteer? There are many reasons, but I think a sense of gratitude and wishing to give back leads the way for most.

But whatever the motive, when the result is beneficial then the act is still good.

And the best part is that volunteering rewards the giver with better health.