Giving is the 8th choice in Rick Foster and Greg Hicks’ book, “How We Choose To Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People: Their Secrets, Their Stories”. They define giving as “the choice to share yourself with friends and community and to give to the world at large without the expectation of a “return”.
They discuss the ideas of the 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, who felt the highest level of giving was to provide to those in need that which will make them self-sufficient. Examples of this would be mentoring and teaching others a trade, a skill or an education. It can be the gift of your time and attention to make someone else stronger. These are the gifts that will last a lifetime. They may outlive us and be given forward to others and down to future generations.
This is the joy in teaching. I know this first hand as a father, physician and teacher. My children may not remember every word of wisdom I’ve preached to them, but they will never forget the skills that I taught them. Of my three children, only one of them doesn’t remember the moment I let go of the bike and they peddled alone on two wheels, but my amnestic son loves cycling the most and will never forget how to ride. I taught them to read and to draw and to make up stories from their imagination. My joy is in seeing their joy in mastery.
I love teaching medical students. These intelligent young people are brimming with enthusiasm for practical knowledge, clinical skills and complementary ways of helping their future patients. I love to share the intrinsic rewards of our profession – the depth of the patient-doctor relationship and the satisfaction of making a positive difference in the lives of others. Inspiring future doctors invigorates my own work.
One of the greatest joys is in teaching patients new ways to look at their lives and showing them new approaches to their life’s challenges. This could be showing a patient with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma how they can take charge of their own health through knowledge of their condition and its treatment with lifestyle and medications. This could be teaching them meditation or cognitive therapy to master their own thoughts and emotions.
Maimonides’s second highest level of giving is anonymous giving – giving without recognition and with no expectation of reward. Whenever I donated blood, I would send out a prayer of health to the person who will one day receive the blood draining from my arm. On Saturday, May 7th the Canadian Blood Services is hosting their “Thanks Mom Stem Cell Drive”. At Burnaby’s Metropolis in Metrotown, any healthy person aged 17 to 50 can register to be a potential stem cell donor with a simple cheek swab. By registering, you could one day be called to donate stem cells in a process similar to a blood donation if you are a match for someone who could be facing a life-threatening condition such as lymphoma, leukemia or other blood diseases. For more information, check the websites at http://www.onematch.ca or http://www.thanksmom.org.
One of my favourite ways to give of oneself is to answer the call on a daily basis. I believe we each have a calling – a great purpose in our lives, and that calling is the intersection of our talents and passions with the needs of the world.
Yet if we approach each day with open eyes and an open heart, we will see many big and small ways we can make a difference in the lives of the people we meet each day.
Your happiness exercise: Move through this day with open eyes and an open heart. Look for ways you can use your unique talents and resources to help someone who needs it. It can be a kind word, a generous act or a helping hand. For extra happiness points, you could even do it anonymously!
Approach every day like this, always asking, “How can I make a positive difference today?” I feel this is the greatest way to seize the day.