For the Love of Giving Back


photo_24387_20101214 (2)Today is Valentine’s Day, so why don’t we celebrate all kinds of social bonds? Whether you’re partnered or single, connecting through giving back can  strengthen and enriches everyone. And the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I have just returned from volunteering on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, where a dedicated and collaborative team worked in a community that welcomed us with open arms.

It wasn’t a two year commitment to the Peace Corps so you may see it as a drop in the ocean. But by working side by side, supporting the local people and helping them improve their skills, you can make a difference. Feeling grateful for the life you have and making new friends are extra bonuses. When you get back home you may be more sensitive to the challenges in your community and want to give back.

 “…..Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” Albert Einstein

You don’t have to leave home to reach out to others. Here are some ‘no strings attached’ ideas you can start right now:

Lend a hand to a neighbor who needs help with a project

Write a gratitude letter to your son in college

Reconnect with an old friend who is ill

Schedule a monthly date with your parents for lunch

Make eye contact with the homeless man you pass every day

Visit your aunt who lives alone

Serve dinner at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter

Smile at a stranger on the subway

Let the harried mom go ahead of you in the grocery line

Many of us have a deep-felt need to help out, ‘heal the world,’ give back. It’s well documented that random acts of kindness contribute to better physical and mental health and can lead to a longer life. And studies show that even two or three hours of volunteering a week can result in higher levels of happiness. So in this month of love, why not begin a new project? You’ll find that it’s impossible to help another without helping yourself.

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