Is it better to give? | Like a Girl
Last updated 12/22/2021 at 8:53am
Editor's note: Here is the first of an occasional column by Edmonds resident Manya Vee.
It's better to give than to receive. We all know the saying well. All religions address it one way or another.
Now before you roll your eyes and move on to the next article, what the heck is so much better about giving than receiving?
After all, any self-respecting child knows the magic of receiving come Christmas morning. All those colorful packages under the tree, just waiting to be ripped into with abandon when her name appears on the tag.
Children prepare well in advance, too, by making lists and asking Santa for specific things to receive. The mailbox in front of the Edmonds Log Cabin Visitors Center is always full of letters to take to the North Pole.
Then, too, let's not forget the disappointment we've all felt when something too precious for our families to afford did not appear beneath that tree one year.
Receiving is demonstrably, joyfully awesome.
So what's this about giving? What's so cool about that?
I learned something about that the other day on my way to work.
On a little-traveled side road, a robin stood stock still in the middle of my lane with a bright red holly berry in its beak.
I thought it would fly away as I got closer, and I slowed down to give it ample time to do so. Nevertheless, it remained standing, almost frozen.
I came to a full stop right in front of it.
Still no movement.
I moved the car to the side and opened my door right over its head.
Still no movement.
So, I gently but firmly picked it up.
It began squawking loudly, releasing the bright red berry to protest my invasion of its personal space.
I carried it to the side of the road and released it beneath a tree, where it promptly flew as far away from me as it could.
With wonder, I got into my car and drove on my merry way, a contented smile on my face and a warm glow of knowing I'd saved that little bird's life that day.
Throughout the day, I shared the story with customers to my gallery on Main Street, where they, too, got to participate in the simple joy of saving that robin. Everyone smiled about it.
I also noticed that it was a certain kind of smile. I've been wracking my brain trying to find the words to describe the particular nature of theirs and my own smile, and the words "contented" and "peaceful: keep coming up. So I'm going with that.
For me, my own contented, peaceful smile remained on my face for several days after the incident.
Which got me wondering about the wisdom behind all the various religious traditions telling us it's better to give than to receive. Maybe they're onto something!
Maybe the act of giving produces a longer, more sustained feeling of happiness than receiving does.
After Googling that inquiry, I came across several psychological studies which show that very thing to be true. Giving to others stimulates the three happiness neurotransmitters in our brains: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
It turns out that stimulating those transmitters results in remarkable improvements to our physical health and well-being, too. Sleep improves. Blood pressure decreases. Social fears are reduced while trust and empathy are enhanced.
Yes, trust and empathy are enhanced.
Those two nouns feel in very short supply these days. COVID has left us isolated, anxious, and confused about how to live an actual life among other people. It's as if we can't get seem to get on the same page about anything.
Why not test the theory out for yourself? After all, we're surrounded by opportunities to do so at this time of year, especially.
The Edmonds Toy Shop is a worthy cause. Or, choose one of the requests from the Giving Tree at Walnut Street Coffee, or an Ornament Request at Cafe Louvre.
Take it to a personal level. Think of a lonely neighbor. Give the gift of 10 minutes of your time over a cup of tea to that person.
Put a bigger tip in your favorite barista's jar. Take someone's shopping cart back to the rack for them. Compliment a stranger on her cool, puffy jacket.
In all cases, I will bet that you get to watch a special smile bloom on that person's face that will put one on yours, too.
Let's do it. Let's all give something this year. Let's prove to ourselves that it's really true.
It's better to give than to receive.