Philanthropy is Caring?

“Philanthropy is not about money, it’s about feeling the pain of others and caring enough about their needs to help.”—Timothy Pina

In a world that is quickly turning into a selfish and often a needy society, it is no wonder that the idea of being a philanthropist is not the main topic of conversation among individuals and groups. Although it is less common today, as it may have been in years or centuries prior, it is not an idea that has completely died. This is because examples of philanthropist can be found all around through acts of kindness, fundraisers and genuine kindness exhibited by individuals towards others.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “philanthropy” is a noun, which is defined as: “goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially: active effort to promote human welfare.” Other definitions include, “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes” and “an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.” Furthermore, the Oxford Dictionary defines it has “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”.

Examples of Philanthropist

“Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” –Gamaliel Bailey

For most of us, we are presented with opportunities to donate to various different charities, that are intended to help individuals and groups with a specific goal in mind such as special needs outdoor activities, children with cancer fun runs, multiple sclerosis, burn camps for children and veteran’s fun runs to name a few. In fact, if you look around, there are plenty of philanthropist who quietly work behind the scenes giving freely of themselves for the betterment of humankind. More often than not, these people silently, give of themselves; not wanting a lot of fanfare or recognition. Others have dedicated their life to being a philanthropist like Mother Teresa, and actively work towards bettering human welfare around the globe.

According to an article published on the list of the top fifty of the most generous people in America, you’ll find famous names such as Warren Buffett, Bill & Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael & Susan Dell and many others.

Most famous people—actors/actresses, billionaires, athletes, and so forth have charitable organizations they endorse and support, and are thereby considered to be philanthropist. Others have started their own charitable organization that supports something that they are passionate about.; including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, animal rescue and shelters, under privileged children and cystic fibrosis, just to name a few. The biggest thing to remember, is that you don’t have to be rich or famous in order to be a philanthropist, every single person has the innate ability to be a philanthropist in their own way.

While all of these different individuals and couples are doing great things and defiantly fit the definition of being a philanthropist, they are well known for more than their charitable contributions. Once again, no where in any definition of “philanthropy” does it state that part of the requirements to be considered a philanthropist do you have to be famous or a billionaire.

Some of the most famous philanthropist around the world, made a huge difference without having copious amount of money at their disposal. These people include Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and others all had a desire to make the world around them a better place, and made that their life mission. As a result, people continue to emulate them and the example and legacy they left behind.  

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu dedicated her life to caring for the less fortunate and the destitute around her. At the young age of 12, Mother Teresa felt a strong call from God, telling her that she needed to be a missionary and to spread the love of Christ. At the age of 18, she left home and joined the Sister of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns who had missions in India. It was while she was in Calcutta, India that she got a glimpse into the suffering and poverty outside the walls of the convent. What she saw had a profound impact on her, that in 1948 she received permission to leave the convent school and devote her life to working along side the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She had no funds to aid in her efforts, she depended on Divine Providence and was able to start an open-air school for children who lived in the slums. Eventually she was joined by voluntary helpers and financial support came forth, which made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work. The work and effort she put forth into being a philanthropist to those in Calcutta has been recognized and acclaimed world-wide. Mother Teresa received numerous awards for her work in providing aid and support to those in need.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, or better known as “Gandhi”, practiced a nonviolent philosophy that promoted passive resistance. Following World War I, Gandhi was active as the leading figure in India’s struggle to gain independence from Great Britain. Because he believed in nonviolent actions to promote change and bring awareness to bigger issues, such as, excessive land-tax and discrimination against farmers and urban laborers, throughout his life. He undertook numerous hunger strikes both as a means of self-purification and political protest to the injustices that his native people were experiencing. Gandhi was committed to helping India gain economic independence, so much that he advocated for the manufacturing of khaddar, or homespun cloth to replace imported textiles from Britain. Although he was imprisoned for his beliefs, he never stopped fighting for what he felt was right and what would provide India and their citizens a better quality of life.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was instrumental in helping to advance the civil rights movement in the 1950s in the United States. In addition to his efforts to advance civil rights, he also worked as a co-pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King, was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With this position, he was eager to organize nonviolent protest and movements to improve the quality of life for his race. Some of the most famous events that Dr. King organized include the bus boycott of 1955 that lasted for 382 days. As a result of the nonviolent, bus boycott, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws unconstitutional that required segregation on the buses; allowing for whites and coloreds to ride the same bus as equals. In 1963, Dr. King lead a peaceful march with 250,000 people, on Washington, D.C., where he delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech. He was arrested upwards of twenty times between 1957 and 1968, and was assaulted at least four different times. Nevertheless, he did not let these incidents and incarceration stop him for promoting his belief and conviction of equal rights. As a result of his efforts, he was able to motivate both whites and coloreds to work together to advance the civil rights movements. He had the ability to get others to see both races as equals and not divided. Although, his life was cut short before he could fully see the fruits of his labors, Dr. King had a dramatic impact on the civil rights movements and future generations to come. He left a lasting legacy that has propelled him to be an iconic philanthropist who was willing to die so that others would have a better quality of life for generations to come.

You Too Can Be a Philanthropist

“Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.” –Eli Broad

You don’t have to have billions of dollars or gain worldwide recognition to be a philanthropist in your own community. You don’t have to do something crazy, drastic or profound to make a difference. Simple acts, such as donating monetarily to someone in need, to providing acts of service to those around you so they know you care. Everyone can be a philanthropist in their own way. Some of the most popular ways that people are able to be a philanthropist is by donating to a family who has a child fighting cancer, helping an elderly neighbor with their yard work or household chores, baking cookies to take to a friend, offering to bring in dinner to a family with a new baby, or providing child care to a family in need. Even small and simple things fit the definition of philanthropy.

Unfortunately, these stories don’t tend to make news headlines, but they happen all the time. Think about the times in your own life when you were the recipient of someone else’s generosity. Perhaps you were a young girl scout out selling delectable girl scout cookies trying to raise money for your troop, or perhaps you were trying to raise money for your school sports team and received donations from friends and community members.

Elizabeth Laird “Hug Lady”

Other examples of everyday philanthropist include Elizabeth Laird, who is better known as the “Hug Lady”. When the United States went to war against Iraq in 2003 in the fight against terrorism, countless troops deployed from Fort Hood, Texas. When the troops started to deploy, Laird was there to send them off with a hug and words of faith and encouragement. When troops started to return home, Laird was once again there to greet them with another hug welcoming them back home. Over the years, she has given out hundreds of thousands of hugs to troops coming and going from Fort Hood. It is estimated that over the years Laird handed out over 500,000 hugs before she passed away at the age of 83 in 2015. This simple act of kindness took little effort on Laird’s part but quickly showed her support and love for the troops. Laird’s example shows that no matter how old or young a person is, they can make a difference, they too can be a philanthropist in their own way. Laird was able to see how much her simple act of love and kindness was appreciated, when thousands of troops came to visit her in her hospital room when she was battling cancer, leaving her with thousands of hugs of their own.

Dorothea Watkins

Many people have not had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Dorothea Watkins, better known as Dottee and her work as a philanthropist. Dottee is a selfless woman who lives in the United States by a Mexico border town. She saw a need in her community and that of the bordering Mexico town. As a result, she wanted to do what she could to make a difference and improve the quality of life for those who were living in poverty in Mexico. Among the needs she worked to alleviate, she learned that young children who were deaf had no way to communicate with their families and vice versa. Dottee reached out to those who could help and was put into contact with a group from El Paso, Texas. The group made the journey to Dottee’s border town and were able to teach Mexican Sign Language (MSL) to young children and their families, along with other interpreters; as a result, MSL is now taught in schools, enabling the hearing impaired to be able to communicate their needs.  As Dottee continued to learn of the needs in her own community, she eventually founded a non-profit organization that provides free healthcare to those in need, along with EMT training to locals, to be able to provide emergency medical services to those in need. Along with meeting healthcare needs, Dottee’s organization works with organizations across the United States that travel to Mexico to build homes and bring necessary medical supplies to the impoverished community. Dottee believes that through empowering the community, the entire community will benefit and have a desire to work together and improve their community on their own.

Dessert Lady

Chances are, you know someone who enjoys baking and enjoys sharing their yummy treats with others more than they do making them. All growing up, I had a neighbor who made the most divine homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. She enjoyed making them so much that she would always make a large batch, more than her family could consume. As a result, living next door to her, she would send over a couple loafs of bread or a dozen cinnamon rolls for our family to enjoy as well. It was a small gesture on her part that made a positive impact on our family. She took the time to share her talents with us, not expecting anything in return. This was a great example of someone practicing philanthropy in my own life, that instilled in me at an early age a desire to do kind deeds to others for no reason other than to be nice.

Paying it Forward

A common act of kindness that I have heard of frequently is where people pay for another person’s fast food order or groceries randomly, with the hope that the person whose life they blessed, would pay it forward and pay for someone else’s. There are countless videos on YouTube that illustrate people doing this very thing, and how it made them feel afterwards. In some instances, they performed this act completely anonymously, whereas others confronted strangers and learned their story. Honestly, watching videos of others doing this act, makes me want to do it for others when I am in a position to be able to do so. I have been the recipient of this in my own life, and it was the biggest surprise to me and it made me happy that I wanted to return the favor. I am continually looking forward to an opportunity where I can pay for another person’s meal or groceries as a way to pay it forward and spread kindness to others around me.

How to be a Philanthropist in Your Own Life

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” –Tony Robbins

There are countless different ways in which you can be a philanthropist in your own life and make a difference in your community. Some of the easiest, most common ways to become a philanthropist include donating to charities and other good causes, baking cookies and taking them to a neighbor in need, spreading joy through hugs and companionship, befriending someone who needs a friend, or volunteering your time at a local food bank or homeless shelter.

aGoodCause - Charity Donation Icons Graphic Concept

With the help of social media, it is easier now than ever before to find people and organizations that need help or volunteers. It is difficult to scroll through a social media feed without finding a post that encourages or ask for people to donate to different causes, fundraisers, charities, etc. This is primarily because as soon as word is out that a disaster, tragedy or accident has occurred, people establish fundraisers as a way for others to donate and help ease the burden of the current situation.

Simple ways in which you can make a difference in someone else’s life is to actively look for opportunities to help those in your own community. The United States Postal Service does a food drive, where all you have to do is place food out by your mailbox to be collected by mail carriers, this is something that occurs in all of our communities and is easy for all of us to participate in without a lot of effort or fanfare. Most food pantries will accept food and monetary donations at their facilities where you can drop off items you wish to donate.

If you are in a position where you can help someone, make the effort to do so. Even if it is only a couple of dollars that you can spare to help make someone’s situation better, do it. But remember it does not have to include money it can include giving of your time to help someone even if it is just listening to them. I firmly believe in what you do unto others will come back to bless you when you need help in your own life.

A common misconception that many people have about being a philanthropist, is they believe that it requires them to have copious amounts of money. This misconception can hinder people from realizing what they do have to offer, thinking that the only way to help is through monetary donations. No matter how big or small, you can make a difference by donating your time to assisting others in need. Most people who are true philanthropist, work tirelessly, with little to no recognition for their efforts, which is exactly how they want it to be. These people give everything they have to ensure that others needs are met and that they leave the world a better place than they found it.

Example of Real-Life Philanthropist

Recently, I was traveling over 1,000 miles with a group to do a humanitarian project. We were a little over halfway to our destination, when we experienced some serious car problems and ended up stranded on the side of the road. We were in a different state, where we didn’t know anyone or any mechanics or tow trucks whom we could call for help. After frantically searching Google, while sitting on the side of the road and making numerous phone calls all to be told they couldn’t help us (it was late on a Friday afternoon), we were starting to get discouraged. When out of the blue, a guy who happened to be driving past had an empty, flatbed trailer, saw our group (mostly girls) standing on the side of the road and decided to stop. This man stopped, and offered to load our car onto his trailer and take us to a mechanic shop that he knew of a couple of miles down the road. In order to help us, in our time of need, it required that he miss a scheduled appointment to pick up a piece of equipment that he had rented and other plans were delayed. He didn’t care that his plans were disrupted. In fact, he told me that when “you see a group of girls standing on the side of the road, you have to stop and help”. We were forever grateful for this man, who out of the kindness of his heart helped a group of complete strangers who were in desperate need of help. He did not ask for or require that we pay him for his service, he was just happy to help someone in need.

Anyone Can Be a Philanthropist…Including You!

As per the definition of philanthropy, every single person can be a philanthropist by simply having a desire to do good and improve human welfare. Being able to make a difference has never been easier, as there is a plethora of opportunities that provide every single person the ability to give back and pay it forward in their own communities, nationwide or worldwide.  

I challenge you to look outside your own personal life, and find ways in which you can give freely of yourself to improve another’s life. Find ways to implement the idea of being a philanthropist into your life and you will benefit from it. Find a good cause that you believe in or that tugs at your heart strings and donate to it, or share it so that others can donate.  

In order to be a philanthropist, you don’t have to donate money, there are other things that you can do that will also make a positive impact and promote the betterment of human welfare. Simple things such as volunteering your time, bake cookies, visit the sick or elderly, send a card in the mail just to let someone know that you are thinking about them. Another easy way to help others that doesn’t require money is to help pass out or post flyers for an upcoming event or good cause.  

There are ample opportunities and ways in which every single person can be a philanthropist. Don’t let the idea that you have to be a famous person or have millions of dollars stop you from making a difference. When you look for opportunities, you will find them in abundance. If you see someone in need, ask yourself if you are able to fill the need, and do so if you are capable. All of these small things add up to make a big impact that can truly change someone’s life for the better.

Author: Ashley Christensen

Sources: (2019). Definition of PHILANTHROPY. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019].

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2019). philanthropy | Definition of philanthropy in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019]. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2019]. (2019). The Nobel Peace Prize 1979. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Feb. 2019].

HISTORY. (2019). Mahatma Gandhi. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Feb. 2019].The Washington Post. (2015). The extraordinary story of the grandmother who committed her life to hugging soldiers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Feb. 2019].

An Attitude of Gratitude

There is no doubt that life is a ride of ups and downs. From lost jobs or new friends to broken down cars and winning championships, the curve balls life throws at us can really catch us off guard. So how can we be more resilient to sudden changes or long periods of discouraging times?

In a 1998 study done by McCraty and colleagues, it was found that individuals with an attitude of gratitude experienced lower levels of stress. This suggests that there is no more opportune time to choose to be grateful than while we are experiencing tough times. Additionally, research shows that expressing gratitude can strengthen and build social circles. Though an initial expression of gratitude may not be directly reciprocated, the thanked individual may go on to reach out to a third party, continuing to expand social connections and develop a network of good. This growing network can help individuals advance in life and better cope with uncertain circumstances, again implying that it is best to be grateful during times of trouble.

What are the best ways to develop an attitude of gratitude? Though it can be difficult to stay positive while experiencing a rough patch, everyone can benefit from being grateful. A few easy ways to incorporate gratitude into your life include keeping a gratitude journal, volunteering, visiting loved ones and writing thank you notes.

Gratitude Journal

        It seems as simple as Julie Andrews counting off a list of her favorite things but keeping a consistent gratitude journal can have profound effects on your life. A study done by the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida found that participants who wrote down a list of positive events at the end of their day (and why those incidents made them happy) experienced a greater sense of calm and lower stress levels each night. Keeping a gratitude journal can also help to keep your mind focused on the positive things in your life instead of everything that is going wrong.

aGoodCause - Happy Volunteer Family


As James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan has said, “those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” Though it may seem counterintuitive to take the time to help others when you yourself are in need of help, many research studies show that it might just be the medicine that you need. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has concluded from his research that “volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.” As you help others you can better appreciate the positive things in your life. You also feel that you can provide value and that your time and talents used while helping others was worthwhile.

Visiting Loved Ones

There’s nothing like a good chat with an old friend or a visit from a friendly relative to lift your spirits. Not only will these visits brighten your day, but they are also an opportunity for you to practice being grateful. Take these moments with your loved ones to thank them for something they have done for you, whether it was last week or last year. You can also take this opportunity to listen to any struggles your loved one may be experiencing and offer some advice, assistance, or simply a listening ear. As you express your gratitude and help your loved one, you will be able to strengthen your relationship with them and open the gate for more opportunities for you to serve them and for them to serve you.

Thank You Notes and Letters

Having a similar effect as writing in a gratitude journal, taking the time to sit down and write a letter of appreciation is another great way to bring some positivity into your life. An experiment performed by Soul Pancake found that this simple exercise of writing a thank you note increased an individual’s happiness from 2 to 4%. These letters don’t have to be long or elaborate. Even something as simple as a message scrawled on a sticky note will do the trick.

As you strive to include an attitude of gratitude in your life, you will be better equipped to handle any setbacks or disappointments that may come your way. Whether it’s keeping a daily journal, volunteering, visiting loved ones or writing thank you notes, you’ll find a little ray of sunshine from practicing gratitude daily.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo


Giving of Ourselves Benefits Our Lives Too

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” – Rick Warren

Giving of ourselves to help and assist others creates a feeling of abundance in addition to a sense of satisfaction within our own lives. Giving to those who are going through a difficult time or are less fortunate forces you to step back and take a broader look at your own life. This can sometimes cause you to reevaluate and adjust your focus in your own life.

I have seen and experienced this in my own life on several occasions—both in my own community and internationally. Every experience has left me with feelings of joy, gratitude and leaves me wanting to do more.

A few years ago, I participated in helping organize an Eagle Scout Project that collected winter clothing for a battered women’s shelter. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about getting involved and helping this organization due to a previous experience with them that was negative, I decided I needed to think about others besides myself and help make this project a success.

The day finally arrived, where it was time to collect, sort and donate all the donated winter clothing. I stayed behind to help organize the donations according to size and categories (coats, sweaters, jackets, etc.). As the night went on we were amazed by the abundance of items donated, more than we ever anticipated. While we did get a good laugh out of the hideousness of some of the items donated, we quickly understood and gained a deeper appreciation for the kindness and generosity showed to those less fortunate.

I often look back on this experience with fond memories as I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and love for those whom we were able to help that night. While I will never know the gravity or fully comprehend that simple act of service, I know my life was forever changed because of the simple act of love.

I am in a position where I am able to pay it forward and assist those who aren’t in an equally as fortunate position as I. As a result, I feel as though it is my responsibility to give to those in need when and where I can, as it not only benefits those in need directly, but my life also benefits from it. The more that I find myself paying it forward to those in my own community and those around the world, the more I crave it.

I used to think I couldn’t make a difference through my small actions, but I have quickly learned through my small actions, great impacts can be made. This is an attribute t I have and will continue to emulate throughout the rest of my life, and it all started with a simple clothing drive one winter night.

Author: Ashley Christensen

A Smile Can Change the World

I want to change the world. Many people say that same phrase but usually it means something grandiose, like becoming president of the United States. But for me, I don’t have anything that big in mind. Partly because I’m realistic. I know that I will most likely never be the president of the US. I am also fully aware that I have no desire to be president of the United States, therefore, I wouldn’t even try. I want to change the world, but I think there’s an easier way than devoting years of my life to politicizing.

In fact, changing the world may be as easy as one small movement with my face muscles.  Just doing this one small thing can potentially make a difference in the world, not just for me but also for those around me. Some might say that this one small thing can affect change more than all the money in all the foundations in all the world. That’s a whole lot of power.

The one small movement that holds all this power? A smile. It seems grandiose to say that a smile can change the world. But I fully believe in the power of positivity; I’m positive that positivity can change the world and I’m positive that a smile can spread positivity. Just imagine how you feel when you smile. That happy, joyous feeling that floats inside you, bubbling to the top of your body and bursting out your face like the sun breaking through the horizon. Sometimes when I’m feeling pessimistic I almost don’t want to smile because I know that it can change my attitude almost instantly and sometimes I just want to be grumpy. But a smile has that kind of power. There’s a reason people say that a smile can light up your face.

Hello Happiness, Goodbye Sadness - AgoodcauseAccording to a 2009 study done at Wayne State University, a smile in a photograph can predict longevity and an overall better life. It states, “Emotions affect personalities and life outcomes by influencing how people think, behave, and interact with others…” Our emotions affect how we behave and interact with the world around us. The study goes on, “People with positive emotions are happier and have more stable personalities, more stable marriages, and better cognitive and interpersonal skills than those with negative emotions, throughout the lifespan…” So, positivity can change the world because it makes for a better home and life. Smiling is truly a worthy cause.

Sadness is an important emotion too, don’t get me wrong. Pixar’s “Inside Out” taught us that very important lesson–sadness needs to be felt and expressed because if we ignore it, it will cause a chain reaction and tear down all our islands of personalities. But when it comes to being sad or being happy, most importantly we should choose positivity. Because although, we can’t literally change the world with just a smile, we can change our attitudes and interactions with others just by smiling.

So, let’s all smile a little more, we just might change the world.


Author: Briana Pugh

Holiday Story about Abundance

The week between Christmas and New Years is usually spent eating food that will add to your waistline, lounging in your pajamas, and planning New Year’s resolutions that you will probably never keep. But for my family, the week between Christmas and New Years of 2015 was a rocky start to a bad two years. My husband John went in for what we thought was just a routine performance review at his job, but instead he was fired.

With no significant savings, no plan, and two kids under two, the next two years was not a walk in the park. At least not a nice park. It was like Central park–unusual, terrifying, and full of thieves and vagrants. Our bank account was closed, our family van was repossessed, and we soon faced impending litigation. John found a job in September, only to be fired (again) before Christmas. In the summer of 2017, John found another job and we waited pessimistically for the inevitable, but thankfully this job stuck. Now, with a third baby on the way we were desperate to replace the van we’d lost. To do so would not be difficult, it would be impossible. We needed a miracle.

There’s a funny thing about miracles; they’re not always big, parting of the sea kind of miracles. It’s because of this that most people think miracles don’t exist. But miracles do exist, most miracles are just small and usually go unnoticed by anyone else except to whom they are happening. Miracles also usually come when you least expect them, and for us, that was Christmas Eve.

That night the stockings were hung, still with care but with removable hooks on the wall because we live in an apartment and there is no chimney. I in my yoga pants and John in his Hurley baseball cap had just settled down for a long winter’s nap–but we’re parents, so a short winter’s nap–when there arose a knock on the door.

A knock is a different sound entirely from Santa coming down the chimney but just as surprising as any unexpected guest. We opened the door to see, not Santa, but people who could easily be described as bringers of gifts. Their names were Ryan Schooley, Jessica Ferrin, and Tom Moak–angels from Chubby’s. They came bearing gifts; food, toys for my kids, and most inspired, a van.

Ryan spoke to my husband, “John I have been where you are now–down on your luck and praying for a miracle. But now, I am able to buy my family a new van. So I want to pay it forward and give you our old van. The only thing I ask is that when you are on your feet again, you do the same for somebody else.” We accepted the van and the promise with tears in our eyes. Now, you see, what transpired that night, after all we had been through, could only be described as a miracle.

Author: Briana Pugh


A true story from the life of Luke Brandley, Co-Founder of A Good Cause Global, LLC.

Summer of 2017 was a world-wind of tragedy, narrowly escaping death, and massive medical expenses that were extremely daunting.

One late evening in July, my  healthy and beautiful wife was sitting on our couch when she unexpectedly had a seizure in her right arm.  Immediately, after the seizure she lost all movement in her legs – she became paralyzed from the waist down. This was very terrifying. Her legs were paralyzed for nearly two months.  The doctors discovered that she had a Chiari Malformation that exceeded 15 millimeters protruding from her brain. The Chiari was blocking the spinal cord from receiving enough fluid; therefore, interrupting her brain from properly communicating with her legs.  At length it was determined that she would have to have brain surgery.  

Unfortunately, it got much worse before it got better.  In the first attempted surgery she almost died.  Thank goodness that the second attempt at surgery was a huge success.  Thankfully, she is now walking again. I call her my miracle girl.

While my wife and I were at the hospital – I stayed with her nearly 24/7 – our neighbors fed our 9 children, built a ramp for my wife’s new wheelchair, my mother-in-law came and stayed at our house to care for our kids, and I believe my wife was prayed for by people from at least four continents.  I could not believe the tremendous outpouring of generosity and thoughtfulness by so many. A dear friend brought me dinner, up at the hospital, numerous times.  People came to visit us and brought love and gifts, and drove my kids around to their activities and sporting events. I was truly in awe.

Yes, we were going through an enormous trial; however, at the same time I was sincerely thankful (and forever will be) for all the tender mercies and genuine miracles that were happening all around me by the unbelievable kindness and generosity rendered by so many people in behalf of my family and I.  

It is true that “when it rains, it pours”.  While my wife was in rehab at the hospital, our son complained about his heart beating too fast.  Well, come to find out, his heart actually exceeded the heart monitor he was required to wear (over 250 beats per minute) so, he was brought to the same ER that my wife had been rushed to only a few weeks earlier.  He too, had to have surgery – heart surgery.  Thankfully and beyond adequate words to express my earnest feelings of inexplicable gratitude, his heart surgery was also a success.

This entire ordeal taught me that life is so very fragile, each moment on planet earth is a gift, and that there are so many seriously amazing people that endow others with small acts of kindness that truly make all the difference.

When many people come together to support a good cause, it makes a ginormous impact.  I knew from these tender moments that, going forward, my life would never be the same and that I wanted to do for others the same sort of  kind deeds that so many did for my family and I.

These experiences, and many more like them, have been the fuel behind creating

Author: Luke Brandley

Plant Flowers and Grow Your Relationships

Michelle is one the greatest examples of a what it means to be a loving and selfless individual that I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. I often crossed paths with her while she was providing some act of service for another individual: bringing a hot meal to a new mom, visiting a lonely neighbor in need, or helping to drive a handicapped woman to the airport. All this was done while carting around her two-year-old and even still while she was pregnant with her second child.

Though life wasn’t always a walk in the park for Michelle, she always managed to wear a smile and bring sunshine into the lives of those around her. Her cheery disposition and positive attitude made it easy to become instant friends with her. She always offered a happy “hello” and had the best advice when you needed it. I remember one specific conversation Michelle and I had about why it was important to reach out to others and make friends.

I expressed some frustrations about how fluid my life was at that time. It felt that anytime I met someone new and started to develop a relationship with them, they would graduate from school or get a new job and move someplace else. “I would like to have more friends, but it’s almost pointless for me to try and meet new people,” I said to Michelle, “because in a matter of months they’ll move and I won’t see them ever again.”

“Well,” Michelle began, “Reaching out to others and making friends is a lot like planting flowers. Some flowers only last a season before they’re gone. But the time you spent tending to those flowers, pulling the weeds, and helping them grow wasn’t wasted because you got to enjoy their beauty while they were in bloom, even if it was only for a little while.”

“And think about the positive influence you can have on their life as well. If you take the time to listen to others and better understand their needs, you will be better equipped to provide some type of service for them during the short time that you knew them.”

It is tough when the flowers in our lives fade away, but that doesn’t mean we should never plant them. Michelle taught me that not only does getting to know others brighten our own lives, but it opens the door for us to be able to serve and help them when they need it. As we make an effort to get to know those around us, whether it’s our neighbors, the waiter at our favorite restaurant or a fellow coworker, we increase our social circle and our opportunities to serve others.

This week, take a little extra time to try and get to know those around you better. Here are three simple ways you can try to plant flowers and grow your relationships.

Ask the grocery store clerk how their day went.

Odds are that you shop at the same grocery store at the same time every week. If that’s the case, you probably run into the same grocery store clerk quite often. This week while picking up your carton of milk and bag of chips, ask the cashier about their day and try to remember their name. That way the next time your paths cross you can call them by name and start a conversation easier.

Write a thank-you note to an acquaintance at work.

It can be surprisingly easy to go through the motions at the office and not really get to meet the people working around you. This week take a few moments to write a quick thank-you note to someone you would like to get to know better. Not only will it brighten their day, but it will also help to grow your relationship with that individual.

Bake your neighbor some cookies.

Everybody loves cookies, and sharing some with your neighbor is a great way to start a conversation with them. Bringing over a hot plate of chocolate chip cookies will give you a few minutes to ask about their family and how everything is going in their lives. You can even use this visit as an opportunity to offer to help with anything they may need, like raking their leaves or carpooling for school.

Reaching out to those around you doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming, but the relationships you develop will help to brighten your life like a newly blooming tulip or a vase of beautiful red roses.

Author: Brindisi Olsen Bravo

The Secret to Happiness

The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.

-attributed to William Penn

Some time ago, I went through some stuff. It wasn’t fun or happy or positive in any way. I was also incredibly depressed. It seemed like all I could do was think about all the horrible things that this stuff generated. I couldn’t see anything positive about my life, and I was slowly losing hope. Frankly, it sucked rocks. (It’s okay, you guys. I’m doing much better now*.)

Aside from being an English nerd (seriously, Epic-Level-English-Nerd here), I also tend to learn as much as possible about a thing. So, I turned to my trusty laptop (you can still surf the web while laying in bed), and googled phrases such as: ‘how to feel better,’ ‘I hate depression,’ ‘please make depression stop,’ and, my personal favorite: ‘eff you depression.’

In the millions of search results that splayed across my screen, I came across a study claiming that expressing gratitude each day makes for a happier life. [hyperlink:]

I know. I scoffed too.

Thus began my deep dive into gratitude. I resolved that each day my husband and I would sit down and write three things for which we are grateful. It didn’t matter what they were, but there had to be three things each day. It seemed like such a silly thing. How does writing down three things, which didn’t even take five minutes, make my life happier?

Day 1.

Husband: . . .

Me: Come on. It’s just three things. I’m grateful for you, and for the kids, and for the dogs.

Husband: . . .

Day 2.

Husband: . . .

Husband: eye roll

Me: I’m grateful for fresh air, and our porch, and water.

Husband: (reluctantly) I’m grateful for you and the dogs and animals

Day 3.

Me: I’m grateful for tea, and colors, and plants

Husband: [cannot be found]

Each day I sat down and wrote three things. Sometimes they were items of pride, such as when one of the kids accomplished a difficult task. Sometimes they were items very personal, such as being grateful for the fact that my brain continues to work even if it’s depressed.

After about three weeks, I noticed a change. I was starting to look for the positives in life rather than the negatives. Instead of complaining about a sink full of dirty dishes, I was now being grateful that we had a sink and dishes. Instead of being angry at all the laundry piling up, I was grateful that we had nice clothes to wear and the ability to wash our clothes in our own home.

Honestly, you guys, it worked. Just by focusing on positive things each day, I was able to see my life differently, which also allowed me to live a happier life.

A study ( published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology highlights this phenomenon. (And yes, I consider this a phenomenon – a miracle, a wonder, a marvel.) Researchers Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough created three studies to look closer at the effects of gratitude on daily life.

What is gratitude? Gratitude is appreciating someone or something that benefits our lives. Gratitude is known as a virtue by most religious traditions around the world is touted as a source of happiness and satisfaction in the popular press. Emmons and McCullough sought to answer if “an attitude of gratitude” is worth pursuing.

Spoiler Alert: The next section is a summary of the studies found in the academic paper Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, originally found in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (

Subjective well-being literature ( studies the components of well-being which include assessments of life satisfaction by one’s life as well as emotions and moods (i.e., joy, frustration, excitement, and gratitude). Previous work has been published showing that gratitude, while highly related to positive emotions like optimism, joy, and harmony, is semantically different. To scientifically study gratitude, psychologists needed to prove that gratitude is separate from more general concepts such as “happiness.” Fortunately, this previous work shows that positive feelings and gratitude overlaps, the ideas and beliefs associated with gratitude is unique. (From The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography by Michael E. McCullough and Robert A. Emmons [].)

Now that the authors have proven gratitude as distinct from other positive emotions, Emmons and McCullough sought to prove that gratitude is not only related to well-being but that it caused well-being. To prove causality, gratitude needs to be manipulated – becoming an independent variable in the scientific study.

[A quick scientific study primer: In an experiment, there are two main components. One is the independent variable, which is the thing the researchers are studying. In this case, it is gratitude. Then there is the dependent variable, which is the result of the manipulation of the independent variable. This is what changes when the researchers control and manipulate the independent variable. In this case, it is what happens when we change the relationship to gratitude in the study.

A variable in research simply refers to a person, place, thing, or phenomenon that you are trying to measure in some way. The best way to understand the difference between an independent and dependent variable is by understanding the meaning of the words themselves. Consider this sentence: “The [independent variable] causes a change in [dependent variable] and it is not possible that [dependent variable] could cause a change in [independent variable].” By inserting the names of the variables in the sentence in the way that makes the most sense, this helps you identify each type of variable. In this study: “Gratitude causes a change in happiness. It is not possible that happiness could change gratitude.”

This is confusing for most university-level undergraduate students so don’t worry if you’re not on top of independent and dependent variables. When in doubt, remember the dependent variable depends on the changes made to the independent variable. We know what the changes are to the independent variable because we are making those changes. But we don’t know how the dependent variable will react. Therefore the dependent variable is the result we are studying. /end lesson]

Emmons and McCullough studied the causal effects of gratitude by creating a series of studies in which participants were randomly divided into separate groups (or conditions). The first group was asked to list things in their lives for which they are grateful. The second group was asked to list “hassles” (things that were bothersome or annoying). The third group did something unrelated or nothing at all. The third group became our control group, by which the other groups were measured (nothing in the third group was manipulated).

Study 1:

For the first study, 192 participants were asked to complete a report each week. The content of the report was determined by which group the participants were randomly assigned. The first group (the gratitude condition) was given the following instructions:

There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.

The second group (the hassle condition) was given these instructions:

Hassles are irritants – things that annoy or bother you. They occur in various domains of life, including relationships, work, school, housing, finances, health, and so forth. Think back over today and, on the lines below, list up to five hassles that occurred in your life.

The third group (the control group) had these instructions:

What were some of the events or circumstances that affected you in the past week? Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below the five events that had an impact on you.

[Note: The first group was asked to assess things for which they are grateful. The second group was asked to list things that were hassles. The third group was asked to list circumstances, but not told to list positive or negative events – just events.)

Participants were also asked to include ratings of mood, physical symptoms, reactions to social support, estimated time spent exercising, and two global life appraisal questions. In a rating grid, participants were asked to rate the extent to which they experienced each feeling. The 30 affect terms were as follows: interested, distressed, excited, alert, irritable, sad, stressed, ashamed, happy, grateful, tired, upset, strong, nervous, guilty, joyful, determined, thankful, calm, attentive, forgiving, hostile, energetic, hopeful, enthusiastic, active, afraid, proud, appreciative, and angry.

The researchers hoped to show that participants who received the gratitude manipulation would experience more positive and less negative emotions over the course of the study, thereby concluding that gratitude had caused these changes in their experience.

After taking the results of the first study, Emmons and McCullough designed the second study, which created a more intense intervention with a stronger manipulation.

Study 2:

Study 2 consisted of 157 participants. The instructions for the gratitude and hassles groups were identical to those used in Study 1. The third group was asked to use a downward social comparison (downward social comparison is when we compare ourselves to others who are worse off than ourselves. Such downward comparisons are often centered on making ourselves feel better about our abilities.). This group was created to appear to be positive on the surface but in reality, might lead to different outcomes than the gratitude focus. Instructions were as follows:

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. We may be better off than others in some ways, and less fortunate than other people in other ways. Think about ways in which you are better off than others, things that you have that they don’t, and write these down in the spaces below.

Study 3:

After the results of the second study, Emmons and McCullough designed a third study where the participants suffered from either congenital or adult-onset NMDs (Neuromuscular Disease Clinic). Participants were assigned to two groups: group one was the gratitude condition used in Studies 1 and 2 and a control condition in which participants rated general feelings such as affect, well-being, and global appraisals.


The results of these three experiments showed found that people who listed people, things, or actions for which they are grateful (blessings) reported being happier than those who listed hassles. Participants in the gratitude group were also happier than those who did an unrelated task or nothing – although the happiness effect was greatest in comparison with those who listed hassles. It is noted that the researchers didn’t know how long the effects lasted and/or whether or not the participants continued listing things for which they were grateful.

(Beyond the effects on happiness, preliminary results show that gratitude may also have an effect on the length and restfulness sleep and on the amount that one exercises. These effects need more study as these were not the main concerns of the researchers, but the results were promising.)

So, what do the results of these studies mean? Well, just as I discovered when I listed things for which I was grateful, these feelings of gratitude lead to increased feelings of positive emotions and happiness. Gratitude is clearly positive and affects one’s life is a positive way; an “attitude of gratitude” is an attitude worth embracing.

One of the purposes of these experiments was to show that a relatively short and simple manipulation, such as listing three things each day for which you are grateful, has a significant effect on happiness and well-being. Consciously focusing on blessings (i.e., things for which you are grateful), benefits you emotionally and inter-personally. Charles Dickens said:

Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.

I know, you guys. I hear you. You simply cannot fit one more thing into your day. I get it. That’s why I’ve given you this handy-dandy (fillable-PDF) download to make listing things for which you are grateful as easy as possible. I challenge you to take five minutes once a day to write three things down. Five minutes, you guys. That’s all.

Try it for 21 days and let us know how it worked for you.


*Spoiler Alert: Aside from being grateful each and every day, I also worked with a psychologist and psychiatrist to help manage my depression. My strategies included medication, meditation, and mindfulness, among others. All these things were helpful for me. I highly encourage anyone who is feeling depressed or potentially suicidal to seek professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ( phone number (available 24/7) is 1-800-273-8255.

Author: Sally Stocker

My Hero, My Grandma

At 93-years-old my husband’s aging grandmother can no longer be trusted to turn the oven off, or keep herself clean, but caring for her is not a burden for her five kids and many grandchildren. They love doing it. She spent years befriending others, caring for family, and serving others. Now they are delighted to get their chance to care for her.

When I first joined the family, I was amazed by her constant smile and positive attitude. I was also touched watching the hours she spent sitting in her big chair, embroidering decorative dish towels for her family members. I asked everyone who knew her in her younger years, “Was she always this sweet? Or did mother nature make her really nice in her old age?” 

“This is just her,” was the response I got, followed by numerous stories of her kindness. When new neighbors moved in and were generally avoided by others for being different, grandma made them cookies and invited them over for hot dog roasts.

When a friend seemed sad, she went out of her way to invite her to social functions. When her kids were hurt she patched them up. When others were happy she celebrated with them, when they weren’t she prayed for them. Grandma has lived a benevolent life, and now, even though her good causes are limited to embroidering kitchen towels and smiling at grand-babies, she is full of abundance. Not because she can dive in a pool of gold coins, but because she is in possession of an abundance of love from others.

Becoming like grandma doesn’t start at 93; it starts today.  Each of us can do a small part to make a tremendous difference for good. Support a good cause today! 

Author: Amber Mae

True Wealth is Doing Good

 “A man’s true wealth is the good he does in this world.” -Kahil Gibrán

Time Magazine wrote an article based on a study done at the University of Zurich in Switzerland where 50 people were told they would be receiving $100 over a few weeks. Half of those people were asked to spend it on someone they knew, and the other half was told to spend it on themselves. []

The researchers monitored three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness, and decision-making. Turns out that the people who spent the money on someone else had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness and reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.

There were more positive side effects that were correlated with donating, such as lowering blood pressure and increasing life expectancy.  There are many more studies out there that say nearly the same thing: giving to others allows the giver to feel positive emotions, therefore becoming happier.

Other than feeling good about yourself, there are many other advantages of supporting a good cause.

Support a good cause today; you will always be grateful you did.

Author: Sally Stocker