Column: Be thankful and take action
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 11:02
As I was perusing Facebook last Thanksgiving I saw, as I’m sure most everyone did, hordes of friends posting statuses giving thanks for everything in their lives; family, friends, home, comfort, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by some friends’ postings, as I never would have expected them to publish such a display of gratitude. At first, the sight made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But then I felt a tinge of anger and shame when I thought: If we are all so grateful, why don’t we act like it?
Being thankful, although extremely important, is only part of the puzzle. The much more important part is taking action to bless other people with our talents and gifts. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.”
When we give thanks, we often don’t realize or forget the logical extension of being truly thankful: giving back to the world that has blessed us so.
As we think of other people in the world who aren’t as blessed, many of us acknowledge that we’re lucky to have been blessed with such a privileged life. However, we often view those people who are suffering as too distant to help. Even if they are geographically close, we are so disconnected from them that the knowledge of their existence doesn’t stir enough emotion within us to stimulate action. But it should.
There is a saying popular among the Haitian poor (who happen to be among the poorest people in the world), that says “God gives, but he doesn’t share.” The meaning is obvious: We have an earth abundantly sufficient to provide for all humans’ needs, but the resources aren’t distributed equally. That challenge and duty falls to those of us who are disproportionately blessed, and that means us specifically in the USA, the richest of the earth who have so much to share.
It is now easier than ever to live in a bubble separated from the rest of the world, with hours upon hours of Netflix shows and millions of Internet memes available instantly for our entertainment, and the distractions make it difficult to feel connected. The choice to stop simply giving thanks and demonstrate it through action is not the easy one. The most comfortable option without a doubt involves coming home after your day, plopping down on the couch and watching TV for the rest of the night.
But if you care for other human beings, not just the ones you see at school or at the bars, you should feel compelled to do something to help those that don’t have what you do.
There are plenty of reasons: consider Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Furthermore, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Even if you aren’t religiously inclined, the deeper meaning in this statement resonates. We are all part of one existence. The divine exists in every person, and our actions toward others should be a reflection of our faith in action, whatever that faith may be.
All of us have something to give, and you’ll find it feels good to share that something. Search out an organization where you can enjoy yourself and utilize your talents. If you like to play music, make some seniors’ day by playing a concert at the nursing home with Project SMILE. If you like playing video games, volunteer to play them one afternoon a week with kids at the Children’s Hospital. If you like building things, volunteer with St. Bernard or Habitat for Humanity. The options are plentiful, and the Service Learning office and LUCAP are excellent resources right here on Loyola’s campus that can help match you with an organization that suits you.
When you decide to take the plunge to volunteer, you won’t just be helping the community; you’ll be helping yourself as well. Recent scientific research has shown that people who do “self-initiated volunteering” throughout their life live longer, are happier, and are more mentally healthy. Just try it out and see for yourself how good you feel!
I dream of a day when people are addicted to the “volunteer high” rather than a drug-induced high. Choose any reason to volunteer, be it faith, community, or self, because it’s the action that matters most.
Jordan Harbaugh is a biological science senior and can be reached at
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