As a non-profit, we depend on the gifts and generosity of others to function and continue to run as an organization. On days like today (North Texas Giving Day), it is easy to bring awareness to giving. But why do we give? Does it actually help? What is in it for me?
These are questions I have asked myself many times, especially as a poor college student who had a desire to be generous but barely had money for all the fast food and shopping trips that occurred. That’s when I realized – it shouldn’t be about me, but giving does benefit me in a strange, backwards kind of way.
You probably have experienced the fuzzy feeling you get when you give a gift to a loved one, when you hand a $5 bill to the lady who needs a meal, or when you participate in a mission trip or service project and give of your time. You know that you gain moral and personal satisfaction from a warm smile, sincere thank you and the knowledge that you helped someone who was not able to help themselves in that moment.
However, did you know that giving also has health benefits?? Bonus! In a Huffington Post article, generosity is encouraged by the 7 science-backed benefits that are given. Generosity is good for your health because it is proven to:
- Lessen stress
- Increase happiness at work
- Benefit the greater good
- Lengthen your life
- Encourage more selfless acts
- Strengthen your marriage
- Promote mental heath
Sounds good to me! By helping others, you are also helping yourself.
But what if I don’t have money to give away? The great thing about generosity is that it doesn’t have to involve a pocket book! For my husband and I, we try to give generously when we can and have set aside funds for a couple of ministries. However, as a young, newly married couple, sometimes giving of our time and resources is more realistic. We might not be able to financially change a teenager’s life, but we can volunteer with a local youth group and give our time. We can’t clothe the nation of Haiti on our own, but we can donate shoes, food, time and other resources through mission trips.
One is not better than the other, but there are at least 3 major ways that you can be generous today!
Giving of your time.
Being generous with your time can mean countless things! See someone stuck on the side of the road? Pull over and help fix that flat. Set aside time to tutor students after school. Visit your local food bank and stock shelves. Find a mission trip that serves a population you are passionate about. Mentor teenaged parents through Teen Lifeline.
Sometimes, time and selflessly investing in the lives of others can change a life in ways money alone cannot.
Giving of your resources.
Have you been thinking of holding a garage sale, but the organizing is too much, it is too hot to sit outside and you know you won’t even make that much money? Consider donating items to a local non-profit or charity that will see those items get into the hands of people who need them. Donating clothes, shoes, food, school supplies, toys, furniture, cars and other material goods can get them off of your hands and into the home of those in need.
Giving of your finances.
Money is not the only way to be generous, but it is an excellent way to give to others! This could be a yearly donation to your local church or non-profit, perhaps you contribute to a fundraiser or run in a 5K, or maybe you have decided to sacrifice 2 cups of coffee a month and have committed to giving $10 each month. Whatever the amount, whichever organization, your money, sacrifice and generosity can be used to help and encourage others.
As I said at the beginning of this post, North Texas Giving Day is an excellent excuse to give generously, and you can find Teen Lifeline’s donation page here. There are other great organizations that you can generously give to, and we encourage you to find some way to benefit others (and yourself) by living generously!
If you are looking for an organization to help, a place to volunteer, a non-profit to take your money and use it to directly affect the lives of other, visit our “Get Involved” page and see if Teen Lifeline is a good fit for you!
Don’t wait until you have more money, time or resources – there is never enough of any of those things – but choose to use what you do have, however small, to impact those around you!
If you would like to support Teen Lifeline for North Texas Giving Day and take advantage of our $20,000 matching fund, please visit and give here to double your donation and help teenagers live life better!
This past week I had the opportunity to travel with our church’s youth group to Nashville, TN on a mission trip. After years and years of leading these kinds of trips, this was the first one I wasn’t in charge of, and thus had some more time on my hands to simply observe and enjoy. We worked with an organization called Y.E.S. (Youth Encouragement Services) which has three different locations spread throughout Nashville. The closest thing I could compare it to is a Boys and Girls club, but with several differences.
Y.E.S. serves kids from ages 4 to seniors in high school. All in the same gym. Now, everything I have ever been taught about working with kids told me a place like this would never work. How on God’s green earth would a four year old be able to effectively interface with a senior in high school? Wouldn’t the senior think playing with a four year old as something stupid and not worth the time?
Well, as you might think – I was wrong. I am a lot, actually. Immediately, we were struck by the simplicity and beauty of this organization. The main leader, David, simply had to blow his whistle once and all of the kids lined up and got quiet to hear him share what they were going to do today. Really. 80 kids got quiet at the sound of one whistle. And, it isn’t what you think. This guy wasn’t a drill sergeant or an intimidator. Those kids simply respected and trusted him.
So, why was this? The simple fact 80 students would fall silent at a whistle stupefied me for most of the week. There was no good reason outside of abject fear these little kids would be so respectful and “bought in” to what was going on at Y.E.S.
After many conversations and observations throughout the week, I concluded the main reason these little kids were so into what was going on with Y.E.S. boiled down to the teenagers in the room. There was a small handful of students 9th-12th grade who had been in the program since they were young. Several of these students were even older than 12th grade and were serving as interns and assistants. When one of the little kids broke one of the rules, it was the teenagers who went over and corrected them, not the director. When the director blew the whistle, the teenagers got quiet too. They served food, cleaned up, played with the kids, and even took out the trash.
The fact these teenagers were so invested taught me three things about not only working with teenagers, but how to build community with teenagers.
1. Teenagers can rise to the occasion.
If you watch commercials or anything on TV, you would assume most teenagers are drooling idiots, married to their phones, and completely disconnected with reality. While with some this may be true, seeing these students rise to the occasion of leading within this organization shows that the expectations were set really high. Simply, if they wanted to be part of Y.E.S, they would have to be invested in its welfare. The little kids needed to see them care about what happened within those walls. I believe the director set a really high standard for these older kids….and it shows in their leadership.
Too often we fail to realize the potential in our students. Yes, they are at a rather flakey stage of life (adolescence), but setting the bar high will never do a disservice. Yes, you might be disappointed from time to time, but when a student understands you have great expectations for who they are and what they become, they tend to rise to those levels.
2. We need to stick with our students.
As those who work with students, we need to be willing to be consistent and constant as they develop. All teenagers can be difficult at times and will likely disappoint us, but what if we stuck with them for the long haul, no matter what? Seeing these students who had been under the care of David for so many years, I could see the fruits of that longevity. They had a lot to lose if things went wrong around there since they had not only been invested in for all of these years, but were now investing themselves.
Too many adults have abandoned their posts with teenagers. Teachers, coaches, and youth ministers cannot be the only ones speaking into the lives of a student. We need to be there, choosing to stick with them because it is our choice. There is something to being chosen that speaks value and worth. Let’s choose to stick with our students.
3. Students can care about others than themselves
This is the one that got me. While I love working with students, they are developmentally in one of the most selfish stages of life. By definition, adolescence is about finding yourself. So, much of a teenager’s task is inherently selfish. But, to see a student turn their gaze outwards and understand their responsibility to care for those younger is a thing of beauty. I believe one of the reasons this organization works so well is because the older students feel a responsibility for the younger.
If we expect great things from students, stick with them, and teach them to stick with those coming up behind them, we will start to see leaders emerge from this generation of students. Blessings to you as you work with students or parent a teenager.