Giving back: Reap the rewards of sharing
How it’s linked to joy: Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Plenty of studies bear this out, including a survey of 4,500 adults by United Healthcare and Volunteer Match that found that 89 percent of those who volunteer said it improved their sense of well-being, 73 percent said it lowered their stress levels, and 68 percent said it made them feel physically healthier.
Giving back has always been a big part of Patricia Gagic’s life. The 61-year-old writer and artist has spent many years volunteering for organizations such as the John Howard Society and Free the Children. But a significant turning point came when Gagic’s friend visited Cambodia in 2006 and stumbled upon a derelict orphanage housing anywhere from 30 to 40 children at a time. Gagic and her surgeon husband, Ned, first visited the region of Siem Reap in 2007. The Gagics provided all of the funds to build a new library and school for the children and the monks who cared for them, and they continue to fund this cause. “It made a huge difference not only in their lives but also in ours,” she says. “People want to feel joy in their lives, and the way to do that is to know what brings you fulfillment—for me, that’s finding a way to contribute.”
How we lose it: We can become so focused on our own concerns that we forget there are many who could benefit from our help. “Think about what’s preventing you from contributing. If you don’t have the money, perhaps you can afford to invest some time,” suggests Gagic. “We can forget that extending a hand to someone else can give us a sense of completeness.”
How to reclaim it: Gagic acknowledges that her financial means allowed her to donate a substantial amount of money to the orphanage but points out that a contribution doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful. “Even if you are doing something as simple as knitting mittens for needy kids, you are making an impact,” she says. “Helping others is what we are here for.”