Many years ago our family had a very enlivening experience. Let me explain:
My work background is in construction and yet I have played music all my life. I have always enjoyed working with my hands and supervising construction projects, but I enjoyed music even more. You see my dad instilled a deep joy in my life when as a young boy he shared with me his love of classical music.
The Story of My Dads Car – Giving Brings Joy
He was a first violinist in an orchestra and so from time to time, even as a young boy, I conducted an imaginary orchestra in the lounge room while the gramophone played. This then developed into a lifelong love affair with the guitar.
In 1990 I left behind my work in construction industry and became a full-time singer and songwriter. Whilst I performed, toured, recorded and played with many different bands over the last several decades, the last two decades of my musical career I have principally performed, recorded and toured with my family.
We were usually paid for playing our music but this time several years ago we chose, as a family, to do a free concert for the young men at a drug and alcohol rehab centre called One80TC.
Many of the young men at One80TC have had time in prison. For some, the judge has given them a choice: twelve months inside a jail or twelve months inside a drug rehab. The drug rehab is usually chosen ahead of jail for good reason.
The statistics show that drug addicts and prison inmates have one thing in common besides crime: high rates of fatherlessness. According to a study from the Texas Department of Corrections in 1992, “85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes, which is 20 times the average”. Another study quoted by the ‘Rainbows for all God’s Children’ in USA shows that 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers (read rehabs) come from fatherless homes which is 10 times the average. Independent statistics from all over the world show these figures to be correct.
As someone who has played in 19 different prisons in every state of Australia except South Australia, I can reiterate that jails are homes for fatherless men as are drug rehabs like One80TC. Fatherlessness is a poverty that few can bear alone and that is why drugs have such an attraction. Robert Bly wrote, “I’ve heard one statement over and over from American males which has been phrased in a thousand different ways: ‘There is not enough father’.”
“What has that got to do with bringing life to my family Warwick?” you may ask. There is something about giving to someone who can never repay you, that brings life to your soul.
Trust me, you and your family have something to give and when you give it, you will be better off. We all have different gifts and I bet you have your fair share of wonderful skills and abilities from which to give.
Academic research demonstrates that giving to others benefits people physically and emotionally. An article in the May 1988 issue of American Health magazine described a study in Michigan that showed that regular volunteer work increases life expectancy. The study found that men who did no volunteer work were two and a half times more likely to die during the study than men who volunteered at least once a week. The article described other benefits that the researchers measured.
Giving, in the form of volunteer work:
- enhances your immune system,
- lowers cholesterol levels,
- strengthens your heart,
- decreases the incidence of chest pains,
- and generally reduces stress.
Using the Americans’ Changing Lives survey, one study found that when respondents from a subgroup in 1986 volunteered, they had a lower mortality rate in 1994, even after adjustments for age, gender, race, and socio-economic status.
A recent study by Cornell University found that volunteering increases a person’s energy, sense of mastery over life, and self-esteem. Other studies have demonstrated that such positive feelings can actually strengthen and enhance the immune system. Positive emotions increase the body’s number of T-cells, cells in the immune system that help the body resist disease and recover quickly from illness.
Positive emotions also release endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural tranquilizers and painkillers; they stimulate dilation of the blood vessels, which leads to a relaxed heart.
Harvard researchers also conducted a study that showed how giving is such a powerful immune booster that it can be experienced just by watching someone else in the act of giving! In this well-known experiment, students looking at a film of Mother Teresa as she tended the sick in Calcutta—even those who purported to dislike Mother Teresa—got an increase in immune function.
Psychologist Robert Ornstein and physician David Sobel are well known for their examinations of the health effects of altruism. In their book Healthy Pleasures, they describe what they call the “helper’s high,” a kind of euphoria volunteers get when helping others—a warm glow in the chest and a sense of vitality that comes from being simultaneously energized and calm.
When you engage in giving as a family the ‘helpers high’ is multiplied several times over. Not only are you giving to others but often you are hanging out with the people who are poor and needy.
When our family did a free concert for the guys in the rehab, we stayed behind to have dinner with our new-found friends at One80TC. They were not necessarily poor, but they certainly had needs (don’t we all?).
Just meeting people in need is an enriching family experience. When you give to them as a family, it is even better.
I can remember a time when we stayed at a poor African village in Uganda performing free of charge. Hanging out and helping our poor African friends was such a blast. The ‘helpers high’ on steroids!
Mahatma Ghandi said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others.” John Wesley said, “The poor I love, the rich I put up with,” and Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
As a family, start planning ways you can help others or give of yourselves. Sponsor a child together, volunteer to help the homeless as a family, go on a short term mission together to help the poor in another country or visit those who have no visitors in nursing homes as a family.
Develop your own family mission statement and begin to give as a family, using your unique gifts to help others in need. I guarantee you will never regret it and you will bring life to your family in the process in a hundred different ways.
Yours for bringing life to your family