THE BLOG
10/07/2014 04:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Helping Those Closest to You

I believe that most people have a giving and altruistic spirit. If given just one wish, wouldn't you ask for world peace or an end to hunger? But when most people think about giving, usually images of donating to a worthy charity or cause -- such as signing up to sponsor an impoverished child -- come to mind. We also tend to think about giving as donating to a local food bank, helping to clean litter off of a local beach and volunteering at a local hospital or medical center.

Giving Starts at Home

But making the world a better place is not a goal that results from simple wish fulfillment. We must always be asking ourselves what we can do individually to help make this dream into reality. Interestingly, one of the best ways to do your part is to first set up a program to give your individual gifts to those who live under the same roof as you, and to your extended family who may be in need.

Help Family Members Become Givers

Giving, service and charity have much broader definitions than we generally think. Regularly going to visit your parents, grandparents or other loved ones in a nursing home or assisted living facility is service. Helping your cousin train in new skills and find employment is service. Joining your aunt in a 5K run to benefit a cure for breast cancer is service. And one of the most beautiful aspects of this kind of service occurs when you are able to help your loved ones move from being the beneficiaries of service, to being givers themselves.

Don't Overlook Familial Needs

If you have children who are struggling in school, or family members who may not have enough to eat, or relatives who could benefit from a helping hand, then donating your time, money and other resources to them is every bit as helpful as going out into the larger community and volunteering. Some may view giving a helping hand to their children as more of a responsibility than charity. Helping your children with their homework, and helping them learn about life and the world, not only helps them directly, but also has a positive impact on society. In other words, it is wonderful to help fight suffering outside the confines of your home, but it's also always great to help your close loved ones better their own lives.

As you invest in serving your family, you will likely find opportunities to encourage them to give, both inside the home and out. Your child, whom you tutored in math, can go on to tutor others. Your cousin, whom you helped train in a work skill, can now help train others. As such, your contribution and service can truly become the gift that keeps giving, as your loved ones pay your gifts forward to others.