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posted: 11/24/2013 6:00 AM

Giving to others improves your own outlook on life

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By Ken Potts

This is a Thanksgiving story worth retelling.

A friend of mine was part of a turkey raffle through a service organization she belongs to. And, much to her surprise, she won.

What to do with a 25-pound frozen turkey? She considered bowling (you remember turkey bowling), but decided against it. She was single and her mother already had bought a turkey for her family's dinner. All her friends had been taken care of, too.

Except one, she realized.

On her drive to work she had gotten into the habit of stopping at a fast-food restaurant. As a regular, she was soon recognized by the staff and had even struck up conversations with a few.

One man in particular had been outgoing and friendly. She would often go to his cash register, even if it took a bit longer, just to say "hi."

Earlier in the week, on a slow day at the restaurant, she had casually asked him what he was doing for the holidays. A rare frown crossed his brow. "Not sure; not sure," was his reply.

It turned out that he had four teenagers at home. He had lost two jobs in the tech industry; both he and his wife now worked two jobs to make ends meet. The challenge of paying rent, buying clothes and putting food on the table was usually all they could handle.

I wish somebody had been videotaping my friend's visit to the restaurant the day after she won the turkey raffle. Imagine the scene: She walks in, casually strolls up to the counter and drops 25 pounds of frozen bird in front of her favorite cashier.

Now, as my friend finished the story, she smiled and confessed, "It was the best Thanksgiving I've ever had."

The best Thanksgiving she had ever had. It is one of those truths that we so often forget, or even ignore. The gift giver almost always receives as much, perhaps even more, than the gift receiver.

Around Thanksgiving or Christmas, we are most likely to remember this truth on our own. We give more to our friends, families, charities, etc., at these times. Some charities, in fact, are almost overwhelmed with gifts and volunteers. And if we are honest with ourselves, we would have to confess that it's not simply altruism behind our giving, it is also the reward we know we receive in return. Giving is important not only to our societal health, but to our own emotional health as well.

I'll give you a challenge. For the next few weeks, find at least one opportunity each day to give to someone else. These could be gifts of time, money, food or whatever.

Each time you give, monitor your own emotional response. What you likely will find is that you feel less self-absorbed, more content and more fulfilled when you focus on meeting the needs of others. Though such regular giving is not a cure-all, it will almost always change your life for the better.

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