Generosity, Happiness, Thankfulness… Which comes first?
Ann Higgins, Director of Development
It’s the season of Thanksgiving, complete with feasting and family gatherings and football. It’s also a time when many of us give of our time and resources to help those less fortunate in our communities. All of these things are good. And all of them make us feel good too (unless your sports team loses!). Being happy and content is a good thing, but it’s also something that is elusive for many of us, evidenced by the plethora of books and articles that have been published recently on the subject. Just google “how to be happy” and you’ll see what I mean!
There have even been scientific studies on the subject and many of them have shown a link between generosity and happiness, specifically, that generous people are happier people. One study, conducted at the University of Zurich and quoted in Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meditation-modern-life/201712/study-shows-generous-behavior-leads-increased-happiness, even makes a biological connection between being kind or generous and feeling better about yourself:
“The study shows that generosity truly is enough to boost personal happiness, and that generosity doesn’t need to border on martyrdom to be effective. Helping others, in any way that we can, is enough to lead us toward a brighter tomorrow.”
This should be no surprise to believers in Jesus. We know the one who made us, and we are intimately joined to him. We also know that we are made in his image. This creator God of ours is a generous God, giving us all we need for light and life. He provides for our physical needs and also surrounds us with His beautiful creation for us to enjoy. In addition to that, he gives us himself in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus reveals to us the true nature of our generous God when he heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, welcomes the little children, and feeds the five thousand. And then ultimately, he gives of himself on the cross to redeem a people for himself. Of course, our only response is to give thanks and rejoice in this wonderful reality. And then, to go on to model God’s generosity to others!
At Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, we are certainly thankful for these things and for many other blessings we have witnessed at camp this year. More campers than ever came through our gates in 2018, and we are especially grateful for the 215 campers who made the trek up to Moose River Outpost, our beautiful property in Jackman, ME. We are also giving thanks for the generosity of everyone who boosted the Scholarship Fund by $59,000 during our Weekend of Giving. We were (and still are!) amazed and humbled at this outpouring of love and support. We know that nothing happens at camp without the prayers and support of the camp family. It is only with this ongoing support that we can fulfill our mission of seeing lives transformed for Christ.
When I think about how many campers and families have come through our gates over the past 75 years, I am amazed at how often we have had the privilege of sharing the good news of the gospel and inviting campers to commune with God amidst his magnificent creation. It’s mind boggling! My only response is thankfulness to our generous Father in heaven. That kind of thankfulness results in something even better than happiness, it results in a deep sense of joy and awe at this wonderful God whom we serve.
At this time of year, let’s remember to not just be thankful in general, but to be thankful to, and for, our generous God! As believers, let’s remember that our responses of happiness, joy, and generosity reflect the nature of our loving heavenly Father, the one who made us to be like him.
Soyoung Q. Park, Thorsten Kahnt, Azade Dogan, Sabrina Strang, Ernst Fehr, Philippe N. Tobler. A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 15964 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15964
Ann Higgins is the Director of Development for Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost where the best part of her job is interacting with the thankful and generous camp family that supports our mission. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org