A Gift That Gives Right Back? The Giving Itself!

I borrowed that title from a newspaper article of the same name in the New York Times (by Tara Parker-Pope, Dec 11, 2007). Here is an excerpt:

"Gift giving has long been a favorite subject for studies on human behavior, with psychologists, anthropologists, economists and marketers all weighing in. They have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Indeed, psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift."

"...People who refuse to accept or exchange gifts during the holidays, these experts say, may be missing out on an important connection with family and friends."

"'That doesnít do a service to the relationship,' said Ellen J. Langer, a Harvard psychology professor. 'If I donít let you give me a gift, then Iím not encouraging you to think about me and think about things I like. I am preventing you from experiencing the joy of engaging in all those activities. You do people a disservice by not giving them the gift of giving.'"

For this month's "thought of the month" (December, 2018), gift giving comes readily to mind because it is part the modern Christmas tradition. As quoted in familysearch.org, "more than 2 billion people in more than 160 countries consider Christmas to be the most important holiday of the year. In the United States, 9 in 10 people celebrate the holidayóeven if they are not Christian. About a third of people in the USA view it as a cultural holiday rather than a religious one."

Next to New Year's Day, Christmas is the second most celebrated holiday internationally. Although Christmas giving has reached a large scale, there are various other gift giving traditions around the world. There are also events such as birthdays, and many regional cultural and national celebrations where gifts are often given.

While there may be a psychological benefit of giving to those whom you care about, there is also satisfaction to be obtained by donating to charity. People find their lives more fulfilling if they can help to make the world a better place. One of my previous "thoughts for the month" described the expanding wave of generosity. The concept here is that by helping people, they become capable of helping others, and thus the gift expands far beyond what the original donor could have achieved from the one gift.

The willingness of people to donate time and money varies according to cultural traditions, and those traditions are not entirely based on the wealth of the people. Check out this 10 most generous nations in the world. This list was from 2015, and as expected it includes prosperous nations such as USA, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. But it also includes some you might not expect: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.

For more comprehensive data covering many nations of the world, Check out this data from the Guardian news.

Right after Christmas comes New Years' Day, which is celebrated around the world on January 1, and that is often a time for people to make resolutions for personal improvement in the year. So, if your mind is turned to gift giving in this season of December 2018, please don't let that thought fade away as you approach the new year. There are many worthwhile things you can do to advance knowledge and help others in your community. You just need to look around to see what things need to be done and how your particular skills and interests can be applied. And, if you have met your own financial needs, consider donating some of your surplus to worthwhile causes, including international charities.

- Arthur de Leyssac, December 2018.


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