That helper’s high you get when you do something nice? That’s totally real.
Giving to someone in need “lifts the happiness” of the giver, as well as the givee, by stimulating parts of the brain that govern pleasure, trust and social connection, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It’s the right thing to do, and the more involved you get, the higher the impact – giving last year was at more than $335 billion in the U.S., and most of that came from individuals, according to Charity Navigator.
Take Jessica Zotz, a store project manager who for the past seven years has been participating in Gap Inc.’s Adopt a Family program, supporting underserved families in local communities.
One year, she gave an electric guitar to a little boy who wanted one. But even better was what she gave her dad that year.
“I was struggling with what to get him – he didn’t really need anything. But he loves music, he plays the guitar, and here was this boy who wanted one. So I gave the guitar in his name.
“He didn’t say anything at first – just got up and walked across the room and hugged me, and cried. And said it was the best gift he’d ever received.”
She’s moved around Gap Inc. – to jobs in California and New Mexico, for example – and always finds the same sense of community.
“It doesn’t matter where I am in the organization,” she said. “I always find the same feeling.”
Julie Buckholz started her Gap Inc. career in New York 21 years ago and has also worked in New Jersey, Florida and Philadelphia. She’s been participating in Adopt A Family for two decades.
One year, she was able to hang out with the family – cook for them, decorate the tree with them.
“The kids are in school with my son, so I hear about how they’re doing,” she said. “Last year, they weren’t on the list, and I know they’re doing well, which made me so happy.”
This year, Julie’s team is adopting 10 kids from their local Boys & Girls Club, and in addition to giving gifts, she’s going to volunteer there.
“This program is all about the pause,” she said. “This is a crazy time of year and people are grouchy, but it’s good to remember what it’s really about. As a team, we get to do this together – we get to slow down and do something bigger than us, bigger than the Gap.”
In China, Gap Inc. employees donate gifts to underprivileged kids from migrant families. These children moved to Shanghai but because they don’t have permanent residence, they cannot go to public schools. Their family income is lower than average and their school conditions are primitive.
This year, the China team sponsored 170 bags of gifts, and volunteered 30 hours, adopting around 42 of these families.
“This is the No. 1 reason why I stay here,” says Jessica, of the program. “If I look for other jobs, I look internally because I don’t want to leave this.”
“In retail,” adds Julie, “this is what it’s about. Yes, we’re here for customers, helping them find their gifts and get their shopping done. But we’re human beings first.”