By Chris Hanson
I had a great Christmas last year, but the holiday season started out quite gloomy. The aftermath of the 2016 election had people engaging in nasty arguments on social media. Everyone is entitled to their political opinions but everything seemed so divisive this political cycle. I worried that there would never again be enough unity in this country to ever get anything done. The political climate almost became The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
A short Facebook post put the Mean One back in his place. My friend Lisa is a teaching assistant at an inner-city school with several homeless students. She was tired of watching a little girl shiver in an ill-fitting spring jacket so she requested a girl’s size medium winter jacket from her Facebook friends. The thought of a little girl shivering because she lacked basic necessities really bothered me, but I could not give her one of my big galoot sized winter coats. So, I told the story on a separate Facebook post and instantly my page exploded, really exploded with offers of help. My holiday spirits came roaring back, not just because of the compassion and generosity, but that it came from all walks of life.
The first respondents were suburban mothers. This did not shock me because a woman’s maternal instinct goes far beyond her own kids. After the moms, a kid I met at a bucket of blood boxing gym asked me for a list of what the family needed. The owner of a local oil distributor offered a cash gift because he believes in giving back. A proactive, hotshot lawyer committed to buying a warm pair of boots. The owner of a yarn store knitted a hat and mittens for this girl. One of my oldest friends introduced me to a neighbor helping neighbor charity, The Kids Clothes Closet in Braintree. All night I was responding to offers of assistance. My specific request was eventually satisfied by the owner of a Wollaston consignment store. She even joked that no one would ever believe she was nice, but I know better.
She certainly does not know it, but the shivering little girl gave me a wonderful Christmas gift. I realized how lucky I am to have such big-hearted friends that did not pass judgment on someone so needy. No one asked why the girl was homeless, if her parents were employed, her place of birth, her race, religion, etc. They just insisted on helping. The little girl simply shined daylight on their ever-present benevolence and that gave me a warm feeling that lasted until January.
The Winter Smart Investor wants to replicate that warmth this year, and actually it is easy to do. As reported on website swissinfo.ch, neuroscientists from Zurich University found generous behavior makes you happier. After having test subjects spend money on others, researchers took an MRI scan of their brain activity. The researchers found strong activity in the areas associated with happiness and generosity. Most importantly, the study found these areas were synchronized, proving generosity can cause happiness. Check with your tax advisor, maybe you’ll get a tax deduction too!
If you’re feeling a little blue this holiday season, consider shutting off the TV and disconnecting the social media. Get involved with a local charity, feed the hungry, visit the lonely, clothe the poor or comfort the sick. My niece Mary likes to go Christmas Caroling with me. Just do what works for you, it could be the best gift you ever give yourself. Think of it as a non-financial dividend.
How ever you choose to spend the holiday season, I wish you a joyous one.
About the Author
Chris Hanson is the author of e Wicked Smart Investor blog and a CPA who specializes in nancial planning at Lindner Capital Ad- ivisors in Hanover. He earned his BBA at the Isenberg School of Management University of Massachusetts and an MBA at Babson College’s F. W. Olin Grad- uate School of Business. He may be reached at (978) 888 – 5395 and you can read his blog at wickedsmartinvestor.blogspot.com. ∞
Reprinted from the December 2018 edition of the South Shore Senior News.