Today the subject is service and charitable giving. I began this space for “reviews” of art; leading films, books and music which bring us understanding and pleasure. With the coming holidays, the topic of service seems congruent because it is such a true source of pleasure.

My path to recovery was somewhat …”typical” in that addiction led me to long-term treatment which led me to 12-Step. In my work as a licensed alcohol/drug counselor I got enough overview to realize my beloved 12-Step has some shortcomings. This is one aspect of the Recovery Movement concept of multiple pathways to recovery in that no one knows what is best for all and we long to be inclusive. How I would characterize it is that one does not have to join twelve step to enter recovery, but that the underlying spiritual principles are highly recommended. All spiritual paths and religions have underlying spiritual principles and they tend to all distill down to the same ones. Every religion has a “Golden Rule”. One underlying spiritual principal is service. Service within twelve step offered me a step-by-step guide that was instrumental in my release from the bondage of self and addiction. The disease of addiction is a disease of self-centeredness and isolation. A simple commitment in early recovery, say taking the key to a meeting and opening the door each week, setting up tables and chairs, gave me numerous benefits. Addiction makes the simplest actions seem insurmountable, so the consistency, competence and connection with others that comes from commitment each week builds esteem out of the darkness. What the spiritual books taught me is that service is the truest path to self-esteem. No amount of therapy will actually build my esteem, I have to take action. Consistent action builds a pattern of good works while plugging me in to a community. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of good therapeutic talk. Cognitive awareness of the influences of my life is helpful. But action that takes me out of my head, commits to responsible living and helps others is the surest way to removing guilt and shame and crafting the web of recovery that is healing and forms stability.

This topic was triggered for me by stories in the media, starting with this.

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Science of Mind and other spiritual systems report much payoff from the practice of tithing, giving 10% of our net income to a charitable organization. So much so that I would have guessed higher numbers than this survey reports. Truly connecting and helping others just feels so great. As the article/study says “We find a strong and highly consistent association between generous practices and various measures of personal well-being like happiness, health, a sense of purpose in life, and personal growth. In our book we discuss the various causal mechanisms that produce this association. While greater well-being can encourage generosity, practices of generosity also enhance well-being. The causal mechanisms we identify involve everything from reinforcing positive emotions to developing a sense of self-efficacy to expanding social networks to increasing physical activity. Generosity, for example, often triggers neurochemical systems that increase pleasure and reduce stress. It also has the capability of reducing the maladaptive self-absorption that many ungenerous Americans experience. By giving away some of our resources for the well-being of others we can enhance our own. By clinging to what we have, we shortchange ourselves.”

As a 12-Step saying goes, “You got to give it away to keep it.”

Then this story came along and warmed my heart so. An NC story if ever I heard one.

“Jason Brown was once the highest paid center in the NFL. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alum walked away from the game in 2012 and became a farmer. Now, he’s fighting hunger in Louisburg.”

As we enter Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I feel compelled to give thanks for all those who labor away, and to list a few trusted and beloved local charities that work to address the foundational problems of hunger and homelessness. No child should be hungry ever and it’s hard to change if you’re on the streets. So to me these are favorite issues. What are the issues that stir your heart?

The Food Bank of NC
The Interfaith Food Shuttle
The Healing Place
Freedom House