The Well-Being Journal

The Gift of Giving

Jennifer Rudloff

With the holiday season quickly approaching, I find myself spending more time reflecting on the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me over the years. I’ve been fortunate in my life. I have wonderful friends and family who provide unwavering support, a job I love, and while I may have a short wish list, I truly have everything in the world that I really need.

As I was preparing to begin my Christmas shopping a couple of years ago, and gathering wishes from loved ones, I got a special request from my parents. They asked that rather than purchasing a gift, that instead I offer up my time and talents to help those less fortunate. Together, we would share the memories made and lessons learned on Christmas morning. My parents are gracious and wonderful people, so this request didn’t really surprise me, but it did make me stop for a moment and smile at their selflessness. This was the start of a new and wonderful tradition.

When I came to Healthways, I heard a similar story. Many years ago at Healthways, as the holiday preparations began, our colleagues asked Tom Cigarran that in lieu of buying gifts for colleagues they instead give that money to help those less fortunate. Tom happily agreed – and a Healthways tradition was born. Now, every year we all step away from our work for a few hours and go shopping together. This year, more than 500 colleagues each armed with an angel, loaded up their shopping carts with toys, coats, clothes, and books for some very special children at Youth Villages and McNeilly Children’s Center. Imagining the smiles across their faces on Christmas morning and knowing that we’re bringing joy and a show of love and compassion to the children who need it the most is wonderful. It brought out a child like joy in all of us. This one activity really does bring us closer as a Healthways family.

At Christmas, or any time during the year, it’s all too easy to take the simple things in life for granted. I can’t imagine not having clean clothes to wear, a roof over my head, being hungry and without food to eat, or worrying for my safety and that of ones I love. Unfortunately those are harsh realities for a number of Americans. Sadly, there are a lot of families struggling this holiday season: we know from the latest Well-Being Index findings that nearly 20% of Americans have difficulty affording food, and 10% of Americans report having trouble affording shelter, and there are many others who are struggling with other problems in their lives.

By helping those in need, you’re also helping yourself. Gallup did a survey in conjunction with the well-being index to determine how volunteerism impacts well-being… what they found was that around the holidays, or anytime during the year, there are a lots of personal benefits to volunteering. People who volunteered in the last 6 months experienced higher personal well-being across all domains than those who did not volunteer. Take a look at the chart below to see how volunteering impacts each area of well-being.

I’d like to challenge you and yours this holiday season to take a moment to count your blessings, and then think about how you can bestow one of them on someone else who needs it. Start a new tradition of your own - it’s sure to make your holidays happier.

Topics: volunteer Community Well-Being Index Helping Others Civic Engagement

Colleagues Care: Martha O'Bryan Center

Jennifer Rudloff

Those who volunteer know that the impact extends beyond the community being served. It makes individuals feel good, encourages team work and collaboration, builds community around a cause, and benefits all aspects of our personal well-being.

Recently ninety members of Healthways health plan team traveled to the Martha O'Bryan Center in Nashville for a day of service. It is the mission of the Martha O'Bryan Center to empower children, youth, and adults in poverty to transform their lives through work, education, employment and fellowship. Inspired by this mission, Healthways colleagues wanted to help. They divided into work teams and conquered some much needed heavy cleaning, weeding, and landscaping and provided school supplies to be used by those in need. By pulling together to accomplish the task at hand, colleagues were able to give the center staff back hundreds of hours allowing them to focus more on the important core work they do. Our team came away feeling inspired about the work they had done, closer as a team, and full of warm fuzzies.

For a first hand account of the day, watch this video:

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Given the tough economic times we are living in and the magnitude of natural disasters our nation is experiencing there is no shortage of people in need. How will you help improve our Nation's well-being?

Topics: volunteer Community Healthways Events Community Service Martha O'Bryan Center