“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2.

I want to set the tone for today’s column by talking, briefly, about public service, with a little help from my dog, Max Retriever.

Each Monday morning, we take an hour or two to visit the residents at an assisted living facility in Raleigh. We have been there often enough that we are getting to be a familiar presence. There is a sense of expectation now when people see Max, and the smiles are genuine.

I’m mentioning this today because I ran across some research which explores the generally accepted fact that “giving makes people feel good.” In the study, one of the subjects complained that she didn’t get the warm feelings she was expecting every time she was generous.

The problem with such an approach is that if we are generous in order to ‘get’ a certain feeling, then we are missing the whole point. Generosity is not about us, it is about what we can do for others. Being generous is about living our faith out loud, it is telling the truth about the gospel of love simply by being.

Later, the study somewhat redeemed itself when it found a direct correlation between the level of personal involvement and “feeling good inside.” In other words, simply giving financially did very little for the donor. Becoming directly involved with real people and hands-on help, however, resulted in what one participant described as “the best feeling of my life!”

Again, I am not sure that is anywhere near the best reason to be generous. And — of course — we need to be generous both with our time and with our money, but it certainly doesn’t hurt (and it is no surprise) that helping others comes with significant emotional benefits.

Max Retriever knows this. But more than that, Max shares himself — selflessly — because that is who he understands himself to be.

God is love. If we are created in God’s image, then isn’t that the essence of our true nature too?


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Derek Maul
Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at www.derekmaul.wordpress.com.