An Op-Ed article from the New York Times written by Nicholas Kristof was forwarded to me the other day. It's a great read about giving and the immense rewards giving, well... gives. I very much buy into this as when people thank me for a gift or a kind gesture, I often think, and sometimes kid aloud, that I really did it for myself. That way I can hear everyone tell me how nice I am. To a certain extent, that's true. I believe I am also motivated to do good for others without expectations of praise however, because doing something for someone else has a lot of benefits. Whether it's a shoulder to lean on, providing a meal, or giving an 800,000 donation to your favorite cause, giving (assuming it doesn't cause serious hardship for the giver) is healthy for provider and receiver. The New York Times Op-Ed column entitled, What Could You Live Without? is story of a family's decision to give based on an observation by a young girl when she and her father pull up to a stop light at an intersection. The daughter sees a homeless man on one side of the street and a guy in a Mercedes on the other. She tells her dad that if the guy in the Mercedes had a less nice car, that homeless man could have a meal. The Salwen family who sold their large house and downsized to a smaller house in order to give the proceeds to The Hunger Project, eventually wrote a book entitled "The Power of Half" that chronicles their decision to alter their lifestyle in order to donate to worthy causes. I don't mean they gave up their morning latte, I mean they really sold their large house and purchased a smaller house so they'd have funds to pass to others in greater need.
In this Op-Ed column, as in many of Mr. Kristof's articles, he takes a look at how the brain processes and generates an emotional reaction to certain behaviors. According to his research from a previous article and referenced in this one, Nicholas Kristof writes "I described neurological evidence from brain scans that altruism lights up parts of the brain normally associated with more primal gratifications such as food and sex. The Salwen's experience confirms the selfish pleasures of selflessness."
The Salwins (also mentioned Mr. John Coonrod of The Hunger Project, who gives generously back to the organization he and his wife work for) are the proof of the phenomenon. The Salwins say the purpose of their book is "... encourage people to step off the treadmill of accumulation, to define themselves by what they give as well as by what they possess." There's a novel idea I think we could all take some time to think about. As the Salwin's daughter Hannah says in this New York Times article, "Everyone has too much of something, whether it’s time, talent or treasure. Everyone does have their own half, you just have to find it.”