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Reason for the Season

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

Open your heart and home to others this Thanksgiving. Why not invite a needy family into your home for the holidays or at least bring meals to those in need? We live in a world where many people have lost their jobs, homes, and families and are in need of an experience of acceptance and love. Call a shelter, church, synagogue, temple, or mosque to find a family you can invite to your home for Thanksgiving. If you feel uncomfortable having a “stranger” at your home, at least give something this year to a family in need.

I grew up in a family where my mother opened our home to different individuals and families in need. This practice made the holidays a truly reflective time. We learned that we really are all one diverse human family. And I promise you this simple practice will transform your life.

Research shows us there are concrete benefits when you give to others. “Helper’s high” is the term used to describe the euphoric feeling we experience when we give to others. This is the season to open our hearts and give of our time and money. As we shift from focusing on our own troubled, busy lives, we turn from the shadows of daily life and open our hearts to the magnificent light and love that is possible this season.

Research tells us that people who give enjoy a longer life than those who are more self-centered. A study of older adults showed those who helped others over five years were half as likely to have died than those who didn’t. These “helper’s high” feelings may also lower the production of stress hormones, which improves your cardiovascular health and strengthens your immune system.

4 Simple Tips for Helping Others This Thanksgiving

  1. Time. Volunteer with an organization you love. You will feel good, make new friends, and transform other people’s lives. Have your children get involved in choosing where you will volunteer so they will own the experience, learn about life, and appreciate their own life more. Or begin volunteer groups at work or in your community.
  2. Money. Create a giving budget. It is an important lesson for your children so they can follow your example. Be a role model not just dropping $5 into the Salvation Army bucket, but by choosing a charity and having the entire family take the money to the organization. Allow your children the firsthand experience with giving.
  3. Compliments. Words are very powerful. Especially during this holy season. Look into other’s eyes and give them a compliment. “Thank you for opening this door,” “What a lovely coat, and “You are a very good person,” are a few compliments. For example, there is a man who stands on a street corner in Washington D.C. known as “The Compliment Man,” who is very beloved. As the people rush by in a flurry, he gently smiles and gives every person passing a compliment and it is priceless to experience the love he inspires in others.
  4. Kindness. The essence of this holiday season is kindness. Don’t allow long lines, massive traffic, tight money, and exhausting travel to distract you from the reason for this season. We are to be kind to each other. Open a door for someone, say thank you, help someone who drops something, or help someone with directions. Teaching your children this virtue is an investment in their moral character for a lifetime.

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