MAKE A LIFE BY GIVING by Rector Chris Girata
MAKE A LIFE BY GIVING was published in the Katy Trail Weekly, "The Good Word" Column, August 14, 2020
Chris Girata is the Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, TX.
For most of us, this summer was not what we had planned. The continued pandemic, necessary quarantines and safety measures have stifled so much of the typical summer fun. On top of that, we are bombarded every day with stories of pain and struggle. From hurricanes to explosions to earthquakes, we can’t catch a mental break. Which is why I think it’s important—no, it’s imperative—that we find ways to fill our souls.
When we give of ourselves, we feel good and that good feeling can help lift us out of this messy reality.
In my house, July was “service month.” Given that we had lost so many of our summer opportunities, we had extra time on our hands, so my wife planned an amazing amount of service to engage the whole family. She stacked up service opportunities from multiple local agencies and had our house buzzing with work. By the end of only three weeks, each of my children had accumulated nearly 100 volunteer hours, and they felt great. We all did!
It’s proven that volunteering your time to help others changes you in very tangible ways. Studies have shown that helping others releases dopamine in our brains, causing us to have what some researchers call “the helpers high.” We quite literally feel better when we help. Helping counteracts the effects of stress, anxiety and loneliness, and recent studies have indicated that the positive effects of helping others can even reverse physical illness. Put all that together, and helping others is a good plan to lift us out of the daily mess of the world and shift us into a better future.
In my experience, one of the only ways forward is to remind ourselves of our value and our strength.
As we face so many difficult challenges, the idea that helping others can help us rise out of stress and anxiety might seem too simple. But at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish about the struggles we all face, I think it might be just that simple. I find in my work, that people often complicate the world in such an extreme way that a step forward seems nearly impossible. When we find that we are facing a future without a clear way to go, that feeling of loss and uncertainty can be crippling. In my experience, one of the only ways forward is to remind ourselves of our value and our strength.
No matter who you are, what you’ve done and what kind of trouble you’re in, there is always a way forward. The first step is to remind yourself of your ability and of your agency, and the most powerful way to do that is to use your gifts to help your neighbors. Helping others can be done on your own, such as checking in on a neighbor who lives alone, and it can be done through as agency, such as distributing food to those who are hungry. However you do it, I encourage you to help now and help often.
The world isn’t getting any less messy anytime soon, so instead receive in return of continuing to be held down, lift yourself up by extending your hand out. You may just be surprised by how much you.
"The Good Word" Column is published bi-weekly, and can be picked up at the Saint Michael South Entrance.
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