We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than receive. You may not agree if you are stressed out trying to find the perfect gift during the holidays. The normal stresses of daily living are compounded by gift identifying, buying, wrapping, and delivering. If you are questioning whether all this anxiety is worth it, science says that it is.
In a recent Your Health segment on NPR, Allison Aubrey spoke with some researchers about the benefits of giving. Researcher and psychologist at the Harvard Business School, Michael Norton, said, “The act of giving actually does improve your happiness.” He ran an experiment with around 700 participants, where some were assigned to make a purchase for themselves while others were making a purchase for a stranger. Spending on oneself didn’t have any impact, whereas spending on a stranger significantly boosted the giver’s sense of happiness.
There’s no doubt that while there is a boost of happiness when giving, it’s also true that the holidays are stressful. The segment outlined some ways to decrease the stress. One idea is to start much earlier in the year. Set aside time in the fall to start the gift identifying and purchasing process so that you don’t feel like you’re scrambling at the last minute. Think about giving experiences as opposed to material items. I remember experiences with much more joy than the gifts I have received. Also, try to be there when that gift is opened. But, most importantly, reflect on why you are giving. “Remind yourself that this is an opportunity to show love, gratitude, and generosity.” And remember that the act of giving is more important than the gift itself. Happy holidays.
Take care and stay safe.
The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.
As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.