Have you ever had the experience of ordering at a drive-thru window and being told that the stranger in line ahead of you already paid for your coffee?
There is a mystique that comes from someone doing a good turn only to disappear, leaving the beneficiary with no one to thank and perhaps the desire to pass on another like act of kindness. Studies have shown that where your health is concerned, it is better to give than to receive.
Being the recipient of a kind gesture or helpful act certainly feels good, but the "giver's glow" or the "helper's high" is reserved for the one who is giving. The term "giver's glow" was dubbed by psychologists to describe the warm feeling that comes from the pleasure center of the brain; similarly, the "helper's high" attempts to explain the increase in endorphins that accompanies giving.
Researchers are correlating happiness, well-being and longevity to helping behavior through controlled studies that account for other variables such as health, economic status and gender. A longitudinal San Francisco study found that high school students who displayed traits of helping behavior were happier and healthier 50 years later. In addition, elders who volunteer have lower mortality than those who don't. It has been speculated that the connection is due to lower stress, lower blood pressure, a greater degree of social connection and lower depression.
Countless organizations throughout the city are giving with no expectation of returns. The friends and volunteers at Memorial Children's Hospital of Colorado are a shining example of the possibilities of giving. Here, the city's smallest patients recover in a room with a special homemade pillow case and quilt made by a volunteer and stocked with games provided by donors. They play in age-specific rooms made possible with gifts and donations, and they enjoy the company of unpaid volunteers who run the gamut from magicians to art teachers.
Being witness to this kind of giving will make you want to pay it forward, to touch people you might never see again and to help the giving spirit spread like a virus!
Klein is a first-degree black belt in taekwondo and practices at the U.S. Taekwondo Center, serving the region for 26 years. For more information, call 488-4321.