“…we have a long history of rolling up our sleeves to take care our community. In a land that can be tough and demanding, generosity is an extreme sport. Lending a helping hand is in our cultural DNA”
Sometimes the best gift you can receive during the holidays is the one you give. And Klamath residents are some of the most giving people around.
Economist Arthur Brooks uncovered a counterintuitive result of charitable giving: He found that when people give money away, they get richer. How can this be?
It may be that givers are seen as leaders, or that through giving we build social capital. It could be that people who give are happy. Surveys show that those who give to charity are 43 percent more likely than people who don’t give to say they’re very happy people. Happy people show up for work more and work longer hours. Ask any business person who they’d prefer to hire and they’ll say happy people.
So, Arthur Brooks reveals a virtuous cycle of success: charity brings happiness and happiness brings prosperity. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but apparently giving money away can.
There is also a strong connection between giving your time and the length of your life. Studies show that people who give freely experience depression relief, weight control, chronic pain reduction, and lower blood pressure.
And it turns out that giving of one’s time or money is one of the very limited ways in which we can find happiness. While the significance of giving is supported by modern science, it’s been known for hundreds of years.
Thomas Jefferson described the “pursuit of happiness” as one of our inalienable rights. But Jefferson and the rest of the Founders weren’t talking about happiness in terms of smiley faces. Students of the Greek philosophers, the Founders used the word happiness “in its Aristotelian sense of lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole.” Happiness in 1776 was connected with ideas of “prosperity, thriving, and wellbeing.”
And the Founders didn’t just write about these ideas. They practiced them. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin started a lending library and Philadelphia’s first fire company. Franklin founded a small academy that grew into the massive University of Pennsylvania.
Even today, Americans live up to those ideals. As a percentage of their incomes, Americans give almost twice as much to charity as residents of the number two nation, New Zealand. Compared to a middle-ranked country like Germany, Americans give over eight times as much to charities.
But it’s not just money: Americans also donate more of our time to community organizations and charitable causes than residents of other countries.
This holds true in Klamath County. Data compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2017 show that residents of Washington County, Oregon gave 2.5 percent of their incomes to charity. Clackamas County residents gave 2.7 percent of their incomes and in Multnomah County people gave 2.8 percent of their incomes. But people in Klamath County gave 3.1 percent of their incomes to charity that year. A few tenths of a percentage point don’t seem like much. But on average, Klamath residents gave 17% more relative to their incomes than residents of these better-off Oregon counties. That says something about us and how we view our friends, neighbors, and communities.
Klamath is geographically isolated, so rather than looking to outsiders for help, we have a long history of rolling up our sleeves to take care our community. In a land that can be tough and demanding, generosity is an extreme sport. Lending a helping hand is in our cultural DNA.
Thanks to Klamath’s deep charitable ethic, the list of community amenities here is world class: The Bill Collier Ice Arena was Oregon’s first full NHL ice rink and is inarguably the most stunning. Steen Sports Park and Mike’s Field House is the largest, privately funded, multipurpose sports facility in the West. American Byways magazine called the Favell Museum one of the three best Native American museums in the nation. And the list goes on.
All of these came about via the charitable giving and ongoing support of Klamath residents.
There many ways to give here. Consider a financial donation to any one of the quality local non-profits that improve our community. Donations of time, attention and personal warmth can fill needs that weigh most heavily on us during the holidays. Read to a child through the SMART program. Volunteer at the Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank or the Klamath Animal Shelter. Join the PTA or the Klamath Basin Audubon. Serve on the board of a local non-profit to provide ongoing help and leadership. We all have something to offer, and no matter what we offer the personal return on that investment is huge.
We are all now part of Klamath’s 150-year old legacy of friendship and mutual support. We must ensure that Klamath’s rich civic legacy remains vibrant and vital to those who follow us. That is how we build a healthier and more prosperous community.
And, thanks to modern science and economics, we also know that giving of our time and money is also how we can ourselves find deep, lasting happiness. So, give yourself some happiness this holiday season.
Written by Heidi Neel Biggs