By Carol Tannenhauser
November 29th is “Giving Tuesday.” It is celebrated in 98 countries as a day that “encourages people to do good,” says the nonprofit organization GivingTuesday.org.
Giving Tuesday was founded in New York in 2012 at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side. A fundraising blog called Classy says it was created “to counteract the spending of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with philanthropic giving to charities in need of support.”
Tara Brach, a Buddhist teacher and writer, compares the timing of this day to the natural act of breathing. “Gratitude [Thanksgiving] is like breathing in – letting ourselves be touched by the goodness in others and in our world,” Brach writes. “Generosity [Giving Tuesday] is like breathing out – sensing our mutual belonging and offering our care.”
One way to exercise that generosity is by proxy, through donations to nonprofit organizations. According to Forbes, “Charitable giving is one of the many ways Americans can help those who find themselves in less fortunate positions this year. Thirty-five percent of Americans plan on giving back by donating to charities on Giving Tuesday [in 2022].” Forbes offers advice on how to give wisely to charities.
But money is not the only thing you have to give; there’s also your time, skills, and service, whether formal (volunteering for an organization) or informal (being there for a neighbor, relative, or friend). If those don’t work for you, simple kindness is another form of giving — and goes a long way, in both directions. In other words, you get what you give.
According to ScienceDirect, “The concept of [a] ‘helper’s high’ arose in the 1980s, and has been confirmed in various studies since then.” Specific brain regions and neurotransmitters are activated when you give or help, and the result is “positive emotions following selfless service to others.”
It happened to me recently, on Thanksgiving eve, after a small act of kindness — and malfeasance. I live on one of the blocks where the Thanksgiving Day parade balloons are inflated. Only residents are allowed to cross the police barricades; all others must wait on an unthinkably long line to get in. Bottom line: I let a family from Boston that I met on the street — with a sad little boy — cut the line and come in as my guests. Rule-breaking though it was, their happiness and gratitude, left me glowing — literally.
“‘It’s called “giver’s glow,’ says Stephen G. Post, director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at New York’s Stony Brook University.” Post told US News the response is triggered by chemistry in the brain that recognizes rewarding stimuli. He added that giving “doles out several different happiness chemicals, including dopamine, endorphins that give people a sense of euphoria, and oxytocin, which is associated with tranquility, serenity or inner peace.”
And the effects of the glow seem to last. ScienceDirect reported that “researcher Allan Luks studied over 3,000 Americans involved in volunteer services and found that the feeling lasted several weeks. Interestingly, the euphoric sensation returned when individuals simply remembered the action.”
I thought of that Boston family over the next few days, always with a smile. I hope my little kindness made an impression on the boy and his world view. I hope he’ll always remember that night in New York City, when he saw the fabulous Macy’s balloons up close — and the nice lady who took him in.