“If I have the means, I have the responsibility to employ them.” – Terry Brooks, The Scions of Shannara
We live in a global village that is increasing in its polarisation between the haves and the have-nots. More and more people are currently being forced into living below the breadline while there are a few people whose personal wealth continues to increase in spite of the worsening global economic conditions.
There are many reasons for these increasing poverty levels: the contraction of the worldwide economy and formal employment, rising costs, wars and inter-tribal conflicts, substandard wages, lack of education, corrupt governments, and diseases such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
Social responsibility: Respond or ignore?
The pertinent question that needs to be asked and answered is: What is our collective (and individual) response to the worsening socio-economic conditions? Do we all jump in and support community- and NGO-initiatives that work at poverty alleviation? Or do stick our heads in the sand pretending that it is someone else’s problem?
I believe that the quotation mentioned above by Terry Brooks (“If I have the means, I have the responsibility to employ them”) is the correct response. It does not matter how little or how much we have, we will always have more than someone less fortunate that we are.
The impact of joyful generosity on our psyches
Not only do we need to respond to the current socio-economic crises by supporting initiatives that help the poor, but I believe that we need to practice what is commonly known as “joyful generosity” or “cheerful giving.”
There is a very simple (and albeit slightly selfish reason) for giving: it improves your mental health!
Before we look at the primary reason why it’s essential to get involved in social outreach programmes, let’s take a brief look at what happens to our “feel-good” brain chemicals when we engage in helping others.
Succinctly stated by Loretta Breuning, author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals, “your brain spurts happy chemicals which reward you with good feelings when you do something it perceives as good.” The four “feel-good” chemicals are Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphin, and Oxytocin.
So, in summary, when you do something good for someone else, your brain releases these four “feel-good” chemicals. Thus, you feel good about yourself. Which, in turn, translates into increased self-esteem levels and, ultimately into the ability to improve your overall mental health.
At this juncture, it’s vital to note that living in the global village (irrespective of which country you live in), is becoming more stressful by the day. Notwithstanding the present socio-economic conditions, there are many geopolitical conflicts as well as increasing levels of violent crime in the world.
The Information Age also contributes both positively and negatively to the world we live in. Consequently, it makes sense that our daily stress levels are exceptionally high. Abnormally high stress levels cause the over-production of the “fight or flight” chemicals like Adrenalin and Noradrenalin cause our anxiety levels to rise. Which ultimately can translate into lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and Cardiac Disease. Consequently, it’s vital to counter these abnormal stress levels with positive, feel-good actions.
Types of social upliftment programmes to support
The last thing to look at is what types of social improvement programmes that we should consider getting involved with.
Again, I can only speak from personal experience; but, I prefer to get involved with programmes, using Firedragon Textiles as a vehicle, that looks after orphans as well as teach marginalised people skills that will make them employable. Examples of such organisations close to me are Embocraft and Ikhethelo children’s village. Both of these associations work primarily in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa to teach people sewing, computer, and welding skills as well as housing, feeding and educating orphans.
In my experience, the advantages of giving joyfully or practising joyful generosity far outweigh the fact that I have less money in my bank account. Incidentally, it is also my experience that the more I give, the more I receive. Yes, these terms sound cliched, but the principles behind them are reliable and trustworthy. It does not matter what your personal beliefs are.
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