“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Since we’re knee-deep in the holiday season, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to give back. We can help others by donating our time, our knowledge, our money, and/or our unused possessions. I’m sure many of us have a cause that we believe in. If not, now is a great time to look into organizations that might support the ideals that are important to you! If it’s not a charitable organization, maybe it’s the school your child(ren) attend.

The importance of volunteering was instilled in me at a young age by my parents. Some of my favorite holiday memories were times spent helping my dad bag groceries for the needy through our hometown Lions Club chapter. I remember the pride I felt knowing that the groceries we were sorting and bagging were going to families that really needed it. My dad still volunteers through his church to deliver meals to those that need it around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

How can you give back to your community, via your time or your money?

I don’t know where we lost our moral compass as a society, but I feel like the wheels have really come off. Too often it feels like people are out for themselves, with little regard given to those around them. And we sure don’t do a good enough job of intentionally putting others first. I have been guilty of this myself.

More recently, I’ve volunteered my time for Junior Achievement here in Atlanta, and I spent several years on the committee for my prior company’s annual United Way giving campaign. We give time and money to other organizations in Atlanta, including Horizons – an amazing organization that helps bridge the summer learning gap for low-income students.

As a parent, I’m now looking for ways to involve our son in volunteering. Unfortunately, he doesn’t meet the minimum age requirement for some of the organizations here in Atlanta but, next month, the three of us will be participating in a day of service through my wife’s employer on Martin Luther King Day.

But we’re not going to stop there! Recently, my wife heard the story of someone’s work that has inspired all of us. Her name is Leigh Clark, and she gives back by performing random acts of kindness. The story that really got our attention involves paying for the gifts that others have put on layaway.

As part of his weekly allowance, our son puts some of his money into a “share” jar (will share more about how this system has worked for us in another post), and he may use this money whenever and however he’d like, as long as it goes to benefit someone else. We had the conversation just last night about him using that money to help us pay off the gifts for some people at a local discount store. Not only will he get to experience the joy of giving back for himself, but it will be something we can do as a family.

Up until the past few years, I didn’t do enough to give back because I was thinking only of myself. Whatever challenges other people had were not my problem. I worked hard for the money I earned, so why shouldn’t I enjoy it?! But I’ve come to realize that this is such a backward, selfish way to think. I now realize that we have an obligation to share our gifts with others, whatever those gifts might be.

During a family vacation this fall, we visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GA. While we were there, we signed up for the “adopt a turtle” program, and now get monthly updates about Krakatoa!

Lastly, donate for your health! Don’t believe me? Take a look at these articles that share the many benefits of giving back: A ‘Helper’s High’ and 7 Scientific Benefits.