I’m extremely fortunate to have been introduced to community service early in my childhood. My mother prioritized giving as one of the foundational values with which she wanted to raise me. I spent several summer breaks volunteering with other young girls in schools that served economically disadvantaged families. The twinkle in their eyes, their sharp wits, and hope for a better future for themselves remains an important memory for me. This experience drew my attention to socio-economic issues — inequality, disparity, and the growing divide between the haves and have nots — in our society. This left a deep impression in my mind.

I learnt that the line that differentiated people with privilege and people without it wasn’t potential. It was opportunity.

I realized that the best way to kindle hope among these young girls was to give them the gift of time and attention, and partner with them to cultivate a sense of sisterhood. Ever since, I’ve spent substantial time mentoring young girls from different parts of the world. In doing so, I also utilized my international career as an opportunity to immerse myself in communities around the world to foster these connections and drive meaningful impact. I developed a strong respect for mentorship. This Forbes article highlights mentorship as one of the most important habits of mind for young college graduates. Here are some reasons why I believe giving is the greatest act of compassion, and how it leads to self-care.

Time is all we have. Time is all we need.

We live in a world where we are defined and constrained by time.
Time is our greatest resource — a finite resource. All of us are living off of a carefully constructed time budget, and rightfully so. Donating time is thus the most generous form of giving, and the more we give, the more time-affluent we feel. The greatest beneficiary of giving is, perhaps, oneself, as when you do it, you gain a renewed sense of hope and energy, leaving you feeling fulfilled.

Giving enhances a gratitude mindset

There’s evidence to prove that gratitude is the highest form of thought and the healthiest of all human emotions. The will to pay it forward is, therefore, amongst the purest of intentions. As the saying goes, gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

“My socks may not match, but my feet are always warm”

Maureen Mccullough 

In mentoring young girls, I grew as a person. Encouraging them, serving as a sounding board, and connecting them to opportunities to make their life better enriched me. Investing a few hours of my time was deeply satisfying in ways I had never imagined, and I felt rewarded for having influenced them in a positive way. In turn, it made me feel grateful for all that I had in my own life. 

Giving fights discontentment

In the book Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig makes profound remarks about the realities of our world. He says, “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves would not be good for business”.

That’s precisely why, in this day and age, it’s become more important than ever to actively balance this with an awareness of the blessings in our lives. Arianna Huffington highlights that self-care is the most important trend in well-being. She writes, “When our whole world shrinks down to just ourselves, the smallest problems or reversals of fortunes throw us. But when we widen the circle of our concern, we’re less concerned with the self — we’re less narcissistic, we have more perspective, we’re more empathetic, and more grateful. That has huge consequences — making us much more effective at dealing with stress, anxiety and even depression.”

There is a strong business case to solve problems in our society through unconventional methods: social entrepreneurship, and exercising corporate social responsibility. Research by Harvard Business Review in The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy explains why giving matters, and offers related factual context.

Giving is liberating, just as much as it is personally transformative. I hope each one of us experiences that and invites more positivity in our lives.

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