Along with my wife, Gena, our hearts and prayers go out to Floridians and all those suffering from the devastating impact and aftermath of Hurricane Irma. At last report, more than a quarter of Florida’s population have still been ordered to evacuate their homes. With Texans just beginning to deal with the recovery for Hurricane Harvey, it breaks our hearts to watch our Florida friends – as well as those in their neighboring states – go through similar suffering.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose, the fifth hurricane of the 2017 season, is said to be gaining strength in the Atlantic as graphics and terrifying images of destruction and the human toll of Irma’s aftermath continue to rain down on us. They are a constant, seen up close and personal, through media. And with each image and update, our sense of fear and foreboding continues to mount. Irma is just the latest in a series of worries and concerns confronting us, from wildfires raging out west to Mexico’s biggest earthquake in a century. Adding to this backdrop of natural disasters is the rumbling in the media of the threat of nuclear war.
Is it any wonder that, as a recent story in the Washington Post notes, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common mental-health concern for today’s American college students? When consistent fear and apprehension is not addressed, it can lead to chronic stress. It can make us far more vulnerable to heart disease, asthma, diabetes and post-traumatic stress disorder. As Time magazine reported in a recent cover story, chronic stress can lead to clinical depression, a disorder that currently affects about 16 million people in the U.S. It costs the U.S. about $210 billion a year in productivity loss and health care needs.
It is why we need to take a closer look at the deeper meaning (an opportunity found) in our response to this latest series of natural disasters – how that response has created true community, bringing strangers, neighbors and families around the country together for a common concern and common fight. How charities – from large and global to small and community-based – have stepped in to help. Of stories well known to us, like the amazing JJ Watt’s crowd-funding initiative and his goal to raise $200,000 in two hours; an effort that has now topped $20 million. Or, a little local news item about a group of children operating a lemonade stand on a Fort Worth cul-de-sac raising more than $2,000 for hurricane victims.
As the leader of my own cause organization, Kickstart Kids, I have long been interested in what it is that motivates people to give of their time and money for a cause. In my case, it was bringing karate to our public school system as a tool to teach character-building values to at-risk kids.
There is a lot of information available on what motivates people to give to charity, but it is hardly a science. One survey has shown that at least 44 percent of donors give because they believe their gift can make a difference. Another 30 percent said their chief reason was giving back to the community. This certainly fits with disaster relief.
Another survey points to a more spiritual motivation. In this survey, 39 percent of donors cited experiencing personal satisfaction, enjoyment or fulfillment as a central motivation for donating. The benefits of giving back encompass everything from a greater sense of pride and purpose to creating more positive self-regard. If the donation resonates strongly with our self-image, we are more likely to feel charitable.
The most resounding message we need to take away from this is that charitable giving improves self-esteem and increases a sense of connection to the world. Connecting to a communal appeal that references what everyone can do together can make us all stronger, happier and healthier. Surveys show that characteristically unhappy people tend to be self-focused and often socially withdrawn and brooding. Without that sense of community, there is little protection and insulation against unhappiness. Having strong social ties is considered one of the greatest guarantors of happiness.
However, there are always those out there at the ready to take advantage of your impulse to give. If you are unsure of where your money may be going and how it will be spent, go to Charity Navigator. It is a nonprofit that has independently rated more than 8,000 charities and has compiled a list of some of the best organizations to donate to in the wake of disasters.
The challenge ahead of us is not in coming together. We are seeing inspiring instances of that already. The challenge is for us to stay united by a purpose; to be a true community moving forward.
In the end, we need to resolve to never lose sight of the fact that it is acts of kindness, compassion and generosity that are the truest pathway to joy.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.