Yesterday, a crisp, blue-skied day in NYC, my daughter and I strolled through the streets. When we reached Times Square, David Blaine, the famed magician, was mesmerizing thousands of bystanders to raise money for Haiti. There were also several college students holding signs “Free hugs here.” They would put their signs down as people came up to them in need of the tenderhearted contact. Those who were not spellbound by the magic, were drawn in by the warmth and caring that pervaded this enclave.
Altruism, self sacrifice for the benefit of others, seems to be hard wired in the human brain. When we behave altruistically there is a connection in our brains and hearts between empathy, imagining ourselves in the position of another, and compassion, experiencing the feeling of mutual suffering.
According to Carl Jung altruism, philanthropy and benevolence may be our unconscious wish to find balance in ourselves and in the world.
- Allows us to see the world from someone else’s point of view
- Helps us cope with depression, loss, and trauma
- Enables us to live longer, healthier, and happier lives
Even in the throes of challenging times we are blessed with having so much. Our personal struggle is not for survival but for finding personal meaning and fulfillment. The inclination towards volunteer work worldwide points to people wanting to help people. Altruists focus on what they can contribute to other people’s lives rather than what they can get from others.
Many corporations locally and internationally have joined in the giving, matching funds donated by employees. A donation of $10 can be made through Verizon by texting Haiti to 90999. While the Red Cross has received tremendous financial support, many more contributions are needed for the Haitian relief effort. You can donate money by going to the Red Cross website – http://www.redcross.org.
From celebrities like David Blaine, performing for hours on end to raise money for the devastation in Haiti, to college students offering a hug to improve a stranger’s day, altruism is in the air.
What will you do today to make a difference?