Giving Feels Better Than Receiving, When We Make It Personal

Some actions have unanticipated consequences. I was reminded of that today.

I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to play a small part in helping a Syrian family get settled in our lovely city of Winnipeg, Canada. 

This morning, we managed to pack a pickup truck full of various household items this morning, including various bedroom/kitchen/dining room furniture, home decor, kitchen/bath essentials, and some toys for their two children.

What guided our donations? As a complement to what their stated needs were, I asked myself what I would want to receive if I were in the same situation (realizing that some cultural differences would likely not make all my picks a match). The result was that many of the items Mr. F2P and I offered up are items we’ve loved over the years or new items that I we’ve regularly used ourselves.

It was so nice to know that another family would get to enjoy items we'd cherished over the years and, as we were moving the things from the home to the truck in open-top boxes, the recipients’ reactions told me I hadn’t done a bad job in what I’d selected for them. Fantastic news for all concerned! I was relieved and delighted, all at the same time.

What a Gift!

The experience made me wonder why I don’t do this more often. We always have too much of everything in our home, even if we like all of it. 

Our cupboards and pantry overflow with extras and substitutes of this or that. Because of the excess, much of what we have is only used part time, if at all, sometimes sitting idly as backups for when we might need it. This is likely a symptom of having lived in the same home for fifteen years.

Do we really need three wooden salad bowls? Do we really need extra table cloths? Do we really need three sets of sheets? Do we really need…I could ask this question over and over for an hour and not be done asking.

More importantly, giving these items away to a “good home” made me feel wonderful in a way that acquiring and/or keeping goods can’t and this really made me stop and think about it for a bit once it was all said and done. 

Here's what I concluded after my noodling: instead of the satisfaction we can get from acquiring, giving provides a different feeling. It’s a warm glow that feels just as good or better and it lasts longer. It’s a feeling of satisfaction that can only come from personally making someone else’s day and witnessing the appreciation, especially when it delights in unexpected ways.

I’m surprised at how this feeling differs from when we give money in exchange for a charitable tax receipt, which is how we usually choose to give.

Giving away possessions and the time it takes to properly rehome them—along with a brief but meaningful exchange with the recipient(s)—felt materially different (Pun intended? I’m not sure.) It felt more real, more tangible, more meaningful. But why?

‘Across the 136 countries studied in the Gallup World Poll, donating to charity had a similar relationship to happiness as doubling household income.’

[Three strategies designed to boost the impact of investing in others:]
make it a choice
make a connection
make an impact

’Investing and connecting provided the most happiness.’
— Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, "Happy Money", p. 113, 115 and 119.

Of course, it’s better not to accumulate in the first place, but the connection is what made all the difference and I think that this connection is what will make me give in more meaningful and personal ways in the future.

I’m grateful to have done what we did this morning and pleased to have been able to share this morning’s event and unexpected consequences with you. 

Indeed, in writing this post, I feel I’ve accomplished two things:

  • Sharing this experience with you
  • Documenting my feelings to remind myself to seek that connection again, sooner than later

I’ll end this post with a general greating in arabic that I learned this morning: “As-salaam alaykum”. 

Have you experienced this type of giving and/or the different feeling associated with different forms of giving?

Image credit/copyright:  anankkml /

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