You can’t buy happiness. We’ve all been told that before. Happiness has no price tag, it’s not on the shelf at your local market, you really can’t order it online. That’s good news to all the people like me living paycheck to paycheck. We don’t have to find extra money somewhere to attain happiness. It’s free for the taking if your mind is set toward joy and abundance!
However, I may have discovered a way that money actually can buy happiness and the good news is that it doesn’t cost much. There have been several research studies recently comparing the happiness level of individuals who were given a small amount of money and then were either told to spend it on themselves or spend it on someone else. Those people who spent the money on someone else reported much greater levels of happiness for a significantly longer time than those who spent the money on themselves.
This concept started me thinking about times I had given money to someone else and how it made me feel. Dropping a few dollars in the offering plate as it was passed around did not make me feel any happier. Giving to the Red Cross at times of a natural disaster was something I felt was helping others, but I didn’t feel a spike in my own happiness because I didn’t see where my money was actually going.
I decided to give directly to someone who needed help to see how that impacted my happiness. I was told about a site called donorschoose.org. Any money, any amount, goes directly to a specific teacher and his or her students who are in need of supplies the school or teacher cannot provide. I saw a class that needed only sixteen dollars to complete a crowd funding project for a set of materials the class badly needed. I had tears in my eyes as I clicked the “send” button to complete that donation for them. I received a letter from the director of the site thanking me. I then received a thank you note from the teacher. She promised photos and letters from her students. Wow! That all felt great! I wanted more!
Yesterday I was downtown with my sons for a yearly festival. We have an active homeless community in our city and they tend to hang out downtown soliciting passersby. I volunteer at an organization dedicated to working with our homeless population by giving them the opportunity to work and learn culinary and hospitality skills so they can get off the street, so I never give handouts. There was one man who was simply joyful, not asking for money, but clearly homeless. I passed him several times and we had some excellent interactions. I had a pocket full of change to feed our parking meter, but felt compelled to give it all to this happy, gracious, joyful man. I walked over and told him, “This is all I have and it’s not much, but you are such a beam of light and I want you to have it.” He said, “This is a million dollars to me. Thank you.” I’m still so happy I did that. I probably did very little for him, and it was nothing for me to give away, but it felt good, and I will do it again next time I’m downtown. I don’t care how he used it, I care that I had a little to give and I was prompted to do so with great love and happiness.
So now I know, money can buy happiness. Less than five dollars in change bought me great happiness and changed my outlook on giving. Sixteen dollars had me weeping with joy at my desk, and I can’t wait to do it again.
This was a guest post from contributor Holly Parker.
Holly is a passionate community service activist, professor of health and wellness, and mother of two teenage boys. She and her boys volunteer regularly in the Colorado Springs community as well as live on a farm with dogs, cats, chickens and a talking parrot. In her free time, Holly can be found on her bike just about anywhere a bike is allowed.