Sometimes Twitter can be a bastion of goodness. Take for instance this statement I saw on my feed the other day, posted by femcee and philanthropist MC Lyte: “I started living when I started giving.” While simple yet profound, her statement is not unique. You might have heard it delivered in a Sunday morning sermon or read it in an inspirational book. But it definitely bears repeating. With all the tragedy and mayhem we’ve experienced at home and afar in the last few months alone, it’s clear that compassion, understanding, empathy and above all else, help, is always needed.
Giving, whether it’s of your time by volunteering or money to aid humanitarian efforts, is something you do out of the kindness of your heart. That much we all know. But I think sometimes we talk ourselves out of giving because either we adopt a “What can I do?” type of attitude or feel at a loss for not being able to give more than we’d like to. But those sayings, “Every little bit helps” or “A little bit goes a long way” are true. It doesn’t have to take much to make a difference in someone’s life, or to motivate others to do the same.
Speaking of motivation, I got a serious serving of it when I saw the viral video of actress Essence Atkins washing a woman’s feet. As she committed the selfless act, she reminded women about the importance of loving on one another, as she put it. Look at the reaction of both women in the clip. It’s clear that this kind deed tremendously touched them. Is that not a prime example of giving? Giving doesn’t have to be a lofty, extravagant undertaking. Sometimes recognizing another person’s humanity is just the right thing.
Philanthropy is also a two-way street that benefits you, according to this recent Oprah.com article. It lists some of the advantages of doing good and uses research conducted by Stephen Post, author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping. His book states that giving can lead to, among other things, greater happiness, better management of pain, and a longer lifespan. Now, if this information were common knowledge, do you think more people would give? Doing good in order to receive personal gain might sound a bit forced or inauthentic, but sometimes we need to get touched personally to recognize how we can be of service. I started raising money for breast cancer research with the Avon Walk after my grandmother passed a few months after her cancer diagnosis. I did the Avon Walk to honor her memory and raised money in the hopes that no one else would have to experience that kind of loss, but I also did it because it made me feel good. It’s not that I wasn’t concerned about breast cancer before she was diagnosed, but my grandmother’s painful journey was an awakening that allowed me to help others. I, in turn, gained the satisfaction of physical empowerment and a connection to a large, loving community.
But what if it feels like everyone is asking for help or money, strangers and loved ones alike? Surely that pressure may dissuade you from being of service, especially if those doing the asking seem fully capable of helping themselves (or you may feel like there’s not enough to go around). That’s a different story altogether, but when it comes to giving, my MadameNoire editor wondered if financial incentives, especially in the following circumstance, could do the trick. Winter is fast upon us, and the homeless population in New York City often have nowhere to go. Yes, there are shelters, but they can’t possibly serve all those in need. Some NYC shelters also encourage those who have family in the area to seek shelter there first, as preference is given to women and children. But what if that family doesn’t have the money let alone the space to take that loved one in? She suggests a stipend could help them get that person back on their feet. That stipend could also extend to mental health incentives. All of this could be part of a solution to a problem that plagues thousands of people in New York City alone.
While we can’t Olivia Pope our way into fixing the world’s problems, at the end of the day, it feels damn good to help someone in need. Think of ways you can be of service. Your heart and soul will thank you for it, and so will the people you’ve helped.