Lori Nunnink-Taylor: Acts of altruism beyond our 6-foot reach
Like a thief in the night, he comes. But this is no typical thief — one that arrives in the early dawn hours to take what does not belong to him.
Rather, he is a Santa Thief of sorts — giving rather than taking — mysteriously leaving priceless treasures on the threshold of her front door each morning. A quart of milk. A bag of apples. A jar of peanut butter. A can of soup. A container of Nestle Quick.
How could this “thief” have known that a can of soup with its pull-tab lid would be her make-shift dinner that evening? How could he have know that a simple jar of peanut butter helps sustain the frail bones that encase her aging body? How could he have known that chocolate milk is the one thing to which she’d become accustom every day for the past 21 years?
She didn’t know who this thief was, only that he had become her lifeline at a time when the certainty of life itself was more tentative than ever.
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In our new way of life, we take our daily walks down deserted streets. We drive past abandoned businesses that, only weeks ago, bustled with patrons contributing to a thriving economy. We watch through our windows and protective masks as our mail carriers, grocery store workers, first responders and medical personnel risk their lives each day in order to help others.
Many of us are feeling scared. Some are feeling helpless. Still, others are anxious as they fear what may await them around the next corner. We are all grasping for answers as the distance between hope and desperation is widening. And now, more than ever, is the time to recognize that we have an opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of others and build that bridge that will connect us all.
Arguably, we all want to help during this unprecedented time of local, national and global ambiguity. We want to feel useful and needed. But as the landscape of our nation and the world around us changes from day to day, how do we lean in to address the challenges of our new, yet temporary way of life? Amidst the struggles we are collectively facing as a community, how can one person make a difference?
We make a difference, first, by caring … for ourselves and those around us who might otherwise have no one to care for them. We do it by paying attention. We do it by asking. We do by simply doing.
We ask ourselves … What can I do for the single mom struggling to teach her child the basics of algebra? How can I be of help to the family who has lost its only source of income? What can I say to encourage someone whose physical separation from their loved ones is impacting their emotional wellbeing? What does our elderly neighbor need to sustain herself when her resources have become strained? How do we care for others and maintain the social distancing necessary for combating the pandemic that surrounds us?
Altruism is contagious. When one person performs a good deed, it can cause a chain reaction. Studies show that people are more likely to perform feats of generosity after observing others doing the same. This effect can ripple throughout the community, inspiring countless groups and individuals to make a difference.
Doing for others and giving back often times gives people a mental boost by instilling in us a neurochemical sense of reward. Doing good deeds makes us happier, can lower our blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, promotes positive behaviors in teens, gives us a sense of purpose and increases our age expectancy. Giving back impacts our personal wellbeing as much as it affects the individual to whom we are extending our generosity.
What does all of this suggest? It suggests that the more we step outside of ourselves and truly see the world around us; the more we act to be the agents of change we want our children to see; the more we strive to love and care for those around us … the greater our society we will become.
What can you do to make a difference and create a happier, healthier community? Countless possibilities exist just beyond our 6-foot reach.
Lori Nunnink-Taylor is the executive director at Anew Day. For more information, visit http://www.anew-day.com.
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