The smile on Katie’s face when she handed the staff at Friends Life Community a colorful mystery box, was infectious. The box was wrapped in copy paper, decorated with various illustrations of the sun, flowers, rainbows, butterflies, and bright green grass. We couldn’t help but grin, watching the look on her face as she smiled so big her eyes squeezed shut. She had given a thoughtfully planned gift, and her excitement was overwhelming.  


One could only imagine what was running through Katie’s mind leading up to this point. She initially thought, “I don’t need anything. I want to save my money and do a good deed.” Then she planned her next steps, asking herself, “Who am I going to give this to? How am I going to give this gift? What brings me joy?” Finally, it all came together in the form of a gift to the Friends Life Community art studio, so the Friends — her Friends — would have new art supplies to create original masterpieces. 


She recounted the feeling of pure JOY, knowing that through this generous and selfless act, she would bring so much JOY to everyone at FLC – Friends and staff alike.

Young woman with Downs Syndrome smiles with another woman and holds a gift up between them

 ”Helping others brings me JOY. It makes me feel better in a positive way!”

Katie Hamilton, FLC Friend 

Giving is joyful. Giving is part of human nature. Giving can forever change the lives of the giver and the receiver.  There is always a debate about who benefits more – the giver or the receiver. When I talk about giving it can be anything that you personally find value in – whether it be a note of encouragement, volunteering your time, food, shelter, or in Katie’s case, a financial gift.  


Two women smile together in front of a window

Did you know that there is research that shows how impactful giving is? 


1. Generosity makes us healthy. Chronic high blood pressure kills millions every year. But one study found generosity actually reduced blood pressure as much as medicine and exercise. 


2. Generosity makes us happy. Giving our time and money to others gives us an emotional boost. Why? According to researcher Christian Smith it’s because feeling good is a product of doing good. It’s built into our neurochemistry. Giving triggers feel-good chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. It’s true across cultural and economic lines, too, according to a Harvard Business Schoolstudy. It’s just part of being human. 


3. Generosity lowers our stress. We don’t think of Scrooge as a mellow guy, do we? Here’s why. It turns out being stingy can actually raise our stress levels. 


4. Generosity improves our relationships.  


5. Generosity extends our lives. All this adds up to longer life expectancy. In fact, one study of 2,000 people in Marin, California, found that volunteering dramatically reduced mortality rates. “Subjects who volunteered for two or more causes had a 63 percent lower rate of mortality than people who didn’t volunteer during the study period,” said one report. 


A young woman with Downs Syndrome stands in front of a well-organized grocery store shelf.

We all have something near and dear to our hearts that we are passionate about. We have gifts and talents that, when shared with others, bring us joy.  


The Friends are our daily reminder of how joyful giving can forever change the lives of others.  So, as we close out 2023 and look ahead to 2024 – What brings you joy?