26

DECEMBER, 2017

LifeStyle
Mental Health

In December there is a sort of magic in the air, it’s the season of giving. As someone who has spent seven Christmases in the hospital, I’m going to share with you why giving really gives back…

I’ll be honest…I used to be extremely selfish as a child. Christmas was about the gifts, and if I didn’t get everything I wanted I would get upset. I remember one year, my Nanny (Grandma) gave my sister $10 more than she gave me, and I cried. I look back on it now and laugh because after going through health challenges for nine years, I actually learned what Christmas is about, if you haven’t guessed already, it’s about giving. When I started ageing I ended up really enjoying buying gifts for my family, especially things I thought they would enjoy. One year, I got my sister, Riley, a nightlight that was a fake tank with fake fish swimming around bright blue and green colours. I was so excited to give it to her, and when I did, I couldn’t help but smile. I guess that was when you could say, I learned that giving really makes the giver feel…almost better than the receiver.

Gabe Howard

“I volunteer because when I needed help people were there for me. Now that I am able, I want to be there for others. It is important to me that I give back.”

If you’ve ever watch Friends, a popular 90’s sitcom, then you may have seen the episode where Pheobe tries to prove to Joey that a good deed isn’t selfish. She donates $200 to a fundraiser she doesn’t support which in return allows Joey to be on TV since he took the donation call which in return makes Pheobe feel good that she helped her friend. She gets upset that “every deed is selfish” but I want to challenge that theory. Selfishness is a very Thomas Hobbes way of thinking, and I personally like to believe society has more of a Kropotkin sense of morality. However, if we put these theories together it shows the thesis that all good deeds are selfish. Many people like to say that “it’s not a good deed unless someone knows about it” but I want to challenge this way of thinking. Saying, posting, and talking about giving is good! It helps other learn the resources and network to help charities close to their heart, and no one should feel like they have to be silent for doing a good deed. Our society is built upon the degradation of self-confidence. With recent social media, there are thousands of people challenging that theory, such as Whitney Way Thore, and Dara Mac Elhinee. Many people look up to these powerful women, so I wonder why being proud of doing a good deed is still so taboo?

“If someone can post on Instagram that they have received ‘the best gift ever!’ we should be able to post saying ‘I just GAVE the best gift ever!'”

I’ve worked with charities for around 6 years, I was a community correspondent for Partners For Mental Health and studied the Not-For-Profit (NP) & Voluntary Sector at Ryerson University Chang School. I currently major at McMaster University in philosophy and I’m continuing my minor in the NP & Voluntary sector. I’ve worked with amazing NP’s such as TWLOHA, Jack.org, LadyBird, Revolving of Doors, and Scotiabank (charity). I advocate for local charities through CBCNews radio, teaching yoga classes at Ontario universities, and answering questions through live interviews. Click here to view my portfolio.

I tend to get one of two responses from people when I tell them about my charity work, ‘you have a heart of gold’ or ‘why can’t you just do good? why do you have to talk about it?‘ It can get discouraging when people tell me to keep quiet when I give, and I don’t believe anyone should ever feel self-conscious for giving! I often post about what I do with charities and NP’s with pride. The greatest part of giving is hearing the stories of the people I have helped. When I volunteer at local events, I often hear the stories of the beautiful people in my city who have been through hardships and how they got to where they are today. There’s something about working with an NP that brings out trust, hope, and comfort to everyone involved. I love getting personal messages asking about my specialities such as yoga, mental health, and animals. Anyone who has DM’d me knows that I answer with…almost blog post length answers! I love teaching and I love seeing people wanting to give back. Screw Hobbes theory! We are Kropotkin!

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Canadians who donate to charity

My personal top two categories for giving back include animal welfare and mental health. I’ve raised thousands for mental health care, and hundreds for animal welfare. But, charity work doesn’t always have to be about the money, often the best gifts can be as simple as providing company, retweeting a worthy cause, asking to replace material gifts with donations to charity, recycling, giving leftover food to local homeless shelters, providing your time to help volunteer at a worthy cause…the list is always growing!

So…how does giving actually give back to me?

I know it sounds corny and kinda lame, but when you give to someone in need it makes you feel better about yourself, it can give your life purpose, and it allows the blessings of new friends and diversity into your life. No matter what interests you have, what passions that drive you there is a charity or organization for it, no one is alone in this world. There are over 7 billion of us and we are all much more connected than it seems.

Top Reasons that Give Back

  1. It gives your life purpose
  2. It encourages diversity in your life
  3. It provides a great opportunity to make new friends with similar interests
  4. It makes YOU feel better about YOURSELF!
  5. It can help you channel your emotions into something that can help society

As I said at the beginning of the article, my work with charity really stemmed after I spent 7 Christmases in a hospital bed. I went through some serious medical complications as a teenager and I lost literal seasons to my disorder. When I started to be able to regulate and tolerate my disorder, I found that giving was one of the things that helped me get better. It helped give my life purpose, I didn’t have much purpose when I laid in a hospital bed, other than the need to get better and try to get my GED. When I got out of inpatient I tried to complete regular tasks for someone my age but I found it hard to even be in a community where people weren’t walking around in hospital gowns, and there weren’t nurses available 24/7 but as the years went on I learned to adapt. One of the greatest coping strategies I have EVER learned is to give. When I gave I felt that what I went through as an adolescent was worth it…because it gave me the ability to see into a life that many cannot even imagine. Because of my hospitalization, I learned that not everything we have in western society is a right…actually quite the opposite is true. We take a lot of things for granted in today’s society but when those things are taken away such as school, technology, and the ability to express yourself through clothing you learn that the world isn’t what someone posted on Instagram. In the hospital, I met the people behind these NP’s. I met people who lost their homes, money, family, pets and dignity. I learned to never take my life for granted. Giving back to these people I shared a life with as an adolescent allows me the chance to smile when I give back, knowing that what I am doing is helping my friends who don’t ever get the same opportunities as I do every day.

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