Gratitude & Giving Back

Growing older can do a lot of things to you. I have seen people become more centered, more spiritual, more obnoxious, more wise, more cynical, more focused, more forgiving. Not necessarily all at the same time.

I became more grateful.

It became clearer to me that one can never cease wanting more and get wound up in an evil cycle of cravings very easily. Once one has achieved x, one wanst x+1 and then the brain starts plotting for x+2. One pays for all of this with their peace of mind and a constant unease that keeps one from attaining their ultimate goal, which in my case is happiness. All I really want from life is happiness. Every single day. The more I go through life seeking to maximize my happiness the more I am learning what really makes me happy. It’s a matter of simple awareness which we lose sight of when we rush towards x + infinity. I found happiness in the simplest of things, many of which had very little do with money. One of the biggest contributors to my happiness levels was the simple act, or rather thought of gratitude. Once I started bringing into awareness all the things I have to be grateful for I stopped craving for things that I thought would bring me happiness because I started marveling at all the people, moments, things in life I already have to derive happiness from.

I got so hooked to the highs I got from gratitude that I decided to share the feeling with some of my friends. One November afternoon last year, I sent the following email to a bunch of friends in the area:

Dear Friends,
You are receiving this email because I know you are either interested in giving back or a good friend or both. 🙂

Over the past week I spent quite some time reflecting over what I have, what I am grateful for and how I can express gratitude by more than just words. I want to doit by giving back.

As the NY Times article recently mentioned choosing to be grateful has other really nice ‘side-effects’. So I wanted to get a head start to my New Year’s Resolutions and organize a group of friends who are willing to join me in giving back on a regular basis. Many of us already donate money and time to good causes but there may be some that have all the right intentions but just haven’t found a way to participate yet. Thankfully, all of us are healthy (and wealthy) enough to come together once in a while and do some community service not only helping people in need but by fostering an environment of gratefulness and giving amongst ourselves.

So here’s the idea:
I am looking for friends who are willing to commit to meet once every two months on a weekend to participate in activities like helping in a food bank, at a homeless shelter, at a senior center, etc. as a group. No monetary donations required. I’ll try to pick activities that require no more than half a day’s time commitment. For the analytical minded amongst you that’s only about 1.5% of your weekend time every 2 months! To make it even more fun we can end by having lunch/dinner together after/before our activities.

If you are interested please sign up here. I promise I won’t spam you unless you are genuinely interested. I’ll plan for our first activity by mid-December so please try to sign up by end of this week. If you think you have friends who may be interested in joining please forward this note to them. Everyone is welcome!

Remember, each drop in the bucket helps!

Thank you and I hope to see many of you join,

I got resounding response and last Saturday a group of 18 of us went to volunteer at the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto for our very first ‘Gratitude & Giving Back’ event. We were deployed in their food bank where we helped organize and restock their food shelves, assemble small, medium and large sized food boxes and then helped distribute them to people in need.

Not only was it astonishing to see our impact in less than two hours, but it was also heartwarming to see that there are volunteers/employees at the organization who have dedicated their entire lives to this program. Next time any of us complain about a work project we are on or crinkle our noses at the food options we have I hope this experience will serve as a reminder to be grateful for what we have.

Here is a little glimpse of our group at Ecumenical Hunger Program:



6 thoughts on “Gratitude & Giving Back

  1. AJ- Being Happy, such a nice thought yet so difficult to achieve. I always try to think of being happy every single day. Actually I have taken one step back in evolution to go back to contentment. Which for me is as basic as eat, drink and sleep. And I get my contentment everyday by just being alive and living the life that I want to live. As little and as much as I know you I am grateful for having you as my friend. I try to make sure I give something (material like food or money) or some part of my time (being there 100%) for people around me. I hope I can do much much more of the giving every single moment of my life. Love Ro


    • Ro, you are so right in saying that contentment is the first step to happiness. It lets you appreciate the status quo and take inventory of what is going well for you which forms the basis for gratitude. I really can’t stress enough how “effective” practicing gratitude can be. And there is no one way to do it. I know many different people do it many different ways. In fact, watch out for a little series I am thinking of starting in February. 🙂
      Lucky me that I am surrounded by friends like you! Not only do I admire you for all that you are you also give me plenty of reason to be grateful!

      Liked by 1 person

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