Every year the world celebrates Mandela Day on the 18th July. In previous years social media timelines buzzed with companies donating and doing good … How do we respond now? How do we remain open-hearted with the threat of Covid stretching us all? Under these circumstances, gratitude and giving take on a new significance. Maybe living and giving is beneficial for your health!?
Ubuntu and empathy lead the way
The spirit of ubuntu is an essentially African value that explores how we become more authentically ourselves by virtue of our connection with others. In a simpler way, our compassion for neighbours is what humanises us. By recognising another’s need and responding to it, we in turn feel more connected and less alone. “I am because of who we all are” is the direct translation of the Zulu idiom: “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” It becomes us all to think about how we can pass along the good things that have come our way. Another way of putting it is what they teach in nursery school: “Sharing is caring!”
The neuroscience of giving
Interestingly enough, neuroscience shows a neural link between generosity and happiness. Thorsten Kahnt, at the University of Zurich, discovered that people who agreed to give away money felt very much happier than those who spent it on themselves. So how do we connect to our own feelings of gratitude and sense of good fortune? How does this lead to generosity? Nobody can order or instruct you to feel grateful. That never works!
It’s worth considering how you have been lucky – Did a HOD mentor you, helping you to recognise your own potential? Or maybe a JumpStart colleague spotted an opportunity you could apply for? Was there an uncle or grandmother who helped you on your way when you were young? Some of our tutors are currently receiving a StudyAssist bursary, due to the generosity of private funders and corporates Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and SASOL. Our alumni, like Clearance Baloyi and Julia Maduna, benefited from internships that launched their careers. When you receive an advantage, you naturally want to share your blessing. But, how do we give when we are cash-strapped? Under lockdown our earnings have been compromised, and salaries have been stretched. What if you simply don’t have money to give?
Generosity as a way of life means that you give of other resources: your time, attention or energy. You notice when opportunities arise for you to make a difference. You mask up and assist a neighbour to fix his roof, or help to repair a broken toy. Take in a friend’s child for a day. Step in for a colleague, donate blood, or make a hungry person a meal. Another way is to use your professional connections to introduce a young person to somebody in your network. What about mentoring a young person?
As simple a gesture as giving a shout out on your social media feed to a JumpStart success story is a way to share the love. Generosity always costs you something: money, time, energy, friendship, or space in your home… The Bible has great advice on how to give: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” Choose what you have to offer and then open your heart to share. Do it daily, not just on Mandela’s birthday. Do it because improved happiness is good for your health and good for the world.
— NelsonMandela (@NelsonMandela) July 16, 2017
Cover image courtesy of Ty Lagalo