Thanksgiving is a well-loved holiday, but its newest neighbor, Giving Tuesday, is lesser known and certainly not as celebrated. Commercial days like Black Friday and even Cyber Monday receive a fair amount of attention, but Giving Tuesday is all about thinking of others and making the world a better place.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday directly after Thanksgiving, which means it falls on November 28 this year. This new holiday was created in 2012 by a team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City, to spread the message that everyone has something they can give to make the world a better place. They rallied nonprofit and charity organizations to support this day of giving, and Giving Tuesday was born. Some of us can give time, others can give money, some people can share their specialized expertise with a non-profit while others can share a smile with a lonely neighbor. Giving not only helps the world become a better place, but it can have direct physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits for the giver.
Volunteering has been linked to physical benefits. Those who experience low levels of physical activity have been shown to increase their activity levels by 110% when they increase their volunteer activity. And physical activity leads to all sorts of health benefits such as improved cognition, weight management, reduced risk of disease, stronger bones and muscles, and improved ability to do everyday activities. One study shows that any form of giving or volunteering that required some cost (either time, effort, or goods) of the participant was associated with better blood pressure, hearing, sleep, and other conditions.
President Russell M. Nelson has spoken many times of the wonder that is a well-maintained physical body. Each eye has an autofocusing lens. Your heart is an incredible pump. The skin provides protection and warns against injury that excessive heat or cold might cause. The body renews its own outdated cells and heals its cuts, bruises, and broken bones. By keeping our bodies well used through volunteer work, we provide a tabernacle where our spirits can continue to grow.
The For the Strength of Youth states, “Your soul is made up of your body and your spirit. For this reason, physical health and spiritual health are closely connected.” Because of this sacred connection For the Strength of Youth counsels us to “Do things that will strengthen your body,” and we are promised that “A healthy body, free from addiction, also increases your ability to receive personal revelation, think clearly, and serve the Lord.”
Generosity has been shown to be important for survival, and our brain rewards us for acting in ways that increase our odds of survival. Hence, we receive reward signals in our brains for completing generous deeds. More reward signals are sent when the generosity is voluntary, but even forced generosity sends a small amount of these reward signals. The area of the brain that deals with evaluating the internal value of our actions is triggered by generous acts, meaning that we may find giving intrinsically rewarding even if there is no outward benefit. And being at peace with one’s decisions is its own form of reward.
A meta-analysis showed that those who engaged in face-to-face volunteering had a much greater quality of life than non-volunteers, even after controlling for wealth and health differences. Life satisfaction has also been shown to increase for those who frequently volunteer. Another study showed that voluntary givers experienced increased well-being, feelings of vitality, and self-esteem. This same study showed that the more selfless the motivation behind the giving, the more benefits received for both the giver and the receiver.
Studies have found that informal helping of others can increase positive mood and change how someone views the world to help them value cooperation more. Donating as little as five dollars to someone else has been reported to make the giver significantly happier. “I promise that love is spoken here, there, and everywhere as we answer yes to Church leaders to serve the Lord in His Church,” says Elder Gerrit W. Gong. “Faith, service, and sacrifice draw us beyond ourselves and closer to our Savior.”
“All that we have and all that we are comes from God,” taught Elder Neil L. Andersen in his recent conference talk “Tithing: Opening the Windows of Heaven.” If everything we have is a blessing from God, then He is asking very little to have us share some of that blessing with those around us through tithing. Tithing and fast offerings are a concrete way to give back that comes with the promise that the windows of heaven will rain down a blessing upon us (Malachi 3:10). “The windows of heaven open in many ways,” says Elder Andersen. “Some are temporal, but many are spiritual. Some are subtle and easy to overlook. Trust in the Lord’s timing; the blessings always come.”
Outside of tithing specifically, we are told in Mosiah 4:12, 26 that if we “impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” Then we will be blessed with rejoicing always, being filled with the love of God, retaining a remission of our sins, and growing in the knowledge of God.
But perhaps the greatest blessing of service is how it can strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ. “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
This Giving Tuesday, find something you can do to serve those around you and discover the blessings service can provide in your own life.
- Visit an elderly family or ward member.
- Write your parents a thank-you note.
- Share your unique talents (from haircutting to accounting) with those in need of them. You can ask the bishop or other community leaders to see where your unique talents can be put to use.
- Write kind messages in chalk on your neighbor’s sidewalks.
- Check out JustServe to find local service projects in need of helping hands.
- Volunteer at a local food pantry or kitchen.
- Donate blood.
- Distribute essentials to those experiencing homelessness.
- Share a message about your favorite non-profit on social media.
- Take a meal to a neighbor.
- Spend time at a local animal shelter playing with the animals.
- Sign up to read books to children at your local library.
- Offer free babysitting services for the day for an overworked parent in your area.
- Leave a kind note and possibly a treat for your mail carrier or delivery man.
- Surprise your family by doing extra household chores.