Category Archives: Help Others

Acts of kindness and generosity improve the world and benefit the person helping others.

Albert Lexie Is A Shining Example

Philanthropist Albert LexieAlbert Lexie is a flat out hero. No, he doesn’t dunk basketballs. And you won’t see his name on movie marquees. He’s not some hot Internet whiz kid, either.

He shines shoes.

Mr. Lexie began shining shoes as a 15-year-old in Monessen, Pennsylvania; and since 1981, he has worked at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

What does a shine cost these days? Five bucks. But Mr. Lexie’s customers usually give him a tip of $1, or maybe $2, occasionally more.

Pay attention, this is where the story gets really good . . .

Over the course of his time at Children’s Hospital, Mr. Lexie has donated all of his tips to the Hospital’s Free Care Fund, which ensures that lack of money will not prevent kids from receiving the treatment they need.

If you are wondering how much Mr. Lexie has donated from his shoe shine tips, be prepared to be amazed.

As of February, 2013, Mr. Lexie’s dollar-by-dollar contributions exceed $200,000! That’s right, he has contributed about 1/3 of his lifetime earnings to benefit “his kids,” as he calls them.

If you are not already amazed and totally awestruck by Mr. Lexie’s generosity, check out this video and learn more about this hero.

Of course, Mr. Lexie is not the only person doing generous things that make the world better for all of us. There are many such stars, even if they don’t get much attention.

I’ll give you another example, my late mother, Peg Santa Maria. After retiring, she worked as a hospital volunteer. Over time, she donated more than 25,000 hours. That equals more than 12 years of full-time employment and it probably would have produced a quarter million dollars if she had worked for money instead of for the joy of helping.

So, the next time you are watching the television news and thinking that the world is going to hell, remember Albert Lexie and Peg Santa Maria. No capes. No superpowers. Just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The world is full of heroes. You can be one yourself.

(If you haven’t heard enough about Albert Lexie yet, this is a longer video (8:25) from a few years ago.)

Oh, and sorry about the headline.

15 Personal Rules That Make Me Happier, Healthier And More Successful

Whether we think about them or not, we all have “rules for life.”

They are the values, beliefs and principles, even habits, that we use to negotiate life.

You should think about your personal rules for life, write them down and make sure they lead you toward your goals, not away from them.

To start you thinking about this subject, and to serve as an example, these are the rules, some specific and some general, that I try to live by to be healthier, happier and more successful . . .

Healthier

1. I go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. 7 days a week.

I am a “morning person” so I to start my day early. I want to be at my home office desk by 6:30 a.m. Knowing that I need 7 hours of sleep to feel rested, and how long breakfast and other preliminaries take, figuring out my sleep schedule was just math. “Extra” sleep doesn’t make me feel any better and it keeps me from working on my goals for my health, wealth, relationships and personal development.

2. I exercise every day.

Living the best life I am capable of requires abundant energy. In addition to getting adequate rest and eating a healthy diet, sufficient exercise is what gives me the energy I need. Four days a week, I do cardiovascular exercise, 45 minutes per session, or a total of 180 minutes of cardio each week. The other three days I lift weights for an hour.

3. I make healthy food choices almost all the time.

While exercise is necessary for good health and high energy, you cannot exercise away a bad diet. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and occasional chicken and turkey. (I get protein from eggs, fish, avocado and nuts, and do not eat red meat often.) Anyone who does not know that fruits, vegetables, grains and fish can be as delicious as anything you have ever eaten just doesn’t know how to prepare them. Fortunately for me, my wife Kathie does. (Hint: spices are a key.) Of course, we all have foods that we love but know we should not eat. This fact motivated me to create my “21st Meal Rule.” That rule allows me one meal a week where I can eat something less healthy and not feel bad about it. My favorite splurge is pizza.

Happier

4. I look for opportunities to practice kindness and compassion.

Even if it is something as little as smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger on the street, holding a door for someone or giving a few dollars to a person who needs it more than I do, I look for opportunities to be kind and compassionate. “We’re all in this together,” and we have to help each other out.

5. I laugh often.

My favorite movies are comedies. All the buttons on my car radio are set for the satellite radio comedy stations. We go to comedy clubs regularly. I receive jokes daily from “AJokeADay.com.” I choose friends with senses of humor. I often write about humor at Forever Young Blog. I always look for the lighter side of things. I laugh at myself often.

6. I dance.

This sounds frivolous but I believe that deciding to dance more was one of the best decisions I ever made. Moving in time with the music (more or less) is a joyous thing to do, especially with someone you love. To get the benefits, you don’t even have to be a good dancer. You just have to not care that you aren’t.

7. I do not stay angry.

I would love to be able to write that I never get angry, but that would be a crock. But I try to get over anger quickly, hopefully within moments. I absolutely never make any important decisions – take any actions or say anything I could later regret – while I am angry. I never hold grudges (mainly because of what they do to me).

More Successful

8. I approach each day with enthusiasm.

And with a sense of urgency. An extraordinary life requires persistent action and extraordinary effort. But it’s worth it.

9. I plan each day at the end of the previous day and then I follow my plan.

All productive and happy people use their time wisely. Wasting your time is wasting your life, and who wants to do that? One essential component of my day is a period of uninterrupted time to work on special projects, such as writing this blog. My Thrive Time, as I call it, is from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

10. I start the day by reading something inspiring.

Just as exercising revs up my metabolism, reading something inspiring builds my energy. Among the things that inspire me are stories of good deeds and kindnesses. I read about them every day at such places as DailyGood.org, GoodNewsNetwork.org, and HelpOthers.org.

11. I learn something new every day.

In a rapidly changing world, you cannot stand still. You are always either moving forward of backward. You are moving toward your goals or away from them. That’s an easy choice to make.

12. I care about important issues in the world, but I do not obsess about things over which I have no control.

I focus on the things where I can have an impact. If I can’t do great things, at least I will do smaller things in a great way.

13. I refuse to live in fear.

Of failing. Of being embarrassed. Even of looking foolish. Since adopting this rule, I have accomplished things that I would not have even tried earlier. When I was afraid of making mistakes, I stayed in my warm and comfortable zone. Big mistake. Very limiting. I have actually come to believe that mistakes are “good.” They teach something. They enable us to show what we can overcome. They ultimately make us better. Here is a quote on this subject from Richard Branson that I like: “The best lessons are usually learned from failure. You musn’t beat yourself up if you fail – just pick yourself up, learn as much as you can from the experience and get on with the next challenge…The brave may not live forever, but the cautious never live at all.

14. I make offers, commitments and promises carefully and then I honor them.

I want the people in my life to know they can count on me, that I am trustworthy. Being true to your word shows respect for the other person. Of course, you can’t over-promise or you will spend your life fulfilling promises to others instead of achieving your own goals and dreams.

15. I do and create things that help people..

My goal is to contribute more to the world than I take from it. Is there really any other justification for existence? It turns out that adding value to the lives of others is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the best business strategy. As the immortal Zig Ziglar famously said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

For me, the overarching purpose of having well-chosen personal rules is to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and good times.

Since these are personal rules for life, yours will be different from mine. How about sharing some of yours in the comment section.

It All Started With A 40-Pound Cabbage

We all have pet peeves, right? Well, one of mine is movies where the wisdom is imparted by a child. “Aw, c’mon,” I say to my wife, “How realistic is that?”

Well, I may have to find something else to irk me because of young Katie Stagliano. Just a few years ago, while in third grade, Katie brought a cabbage seedling home from school and grew it into a 40-pound cabbage. Then, the magic began. Her parents had taught her to be grateful for the food they had to eat and that not everyone was as fortunate. So Katie decided to donate her super-cabbage to a local soup kitchen.

This short video, featuring Katie herself, tells the rest of the story far better than I could . . .

Video from KarmaTube

Thanks, Katie, for your volunteerism and for making my day. Oh, yea, and for “de-peeving” me.

Clowning Around

One way to stay “forever young” is to help others.

A growing body of research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better physical and mental health and that volunteers even live longer.

Want more proof of the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteer Clowns Ray And Linda Faczan
70 Seven And Kor-Kee
Meet Ray Faczan, a 67-year-old retired pharmaceutical salesman and his 66-year old wife, Linda Faczan, a retired medical secretary.

Linda and Ray serve their community in Central Pennsylvania by, well, clowning around.

I mean that literally. They are volunteer clowns. You know, facial makeup, red noses, wigs, costumes, extra-large shoes and gags galore. That kind of clown.

When they are performing as clowns, Linda and Ray actually take on the persona of their clown character. So let’s meet those characters.

Linda’s clown name is “Kor-Kee,” which is derived from her ability to make beautiful wreaths out of corks. Ray is “70 Seven” because he is 77 inches tall.

Not only does every clown have a nom de clown, but they also have a costume and a makeup style derived from the type of clown they are.

Types of Clowns

There are 3 main types of clowns: Whiteface, Auguste and Hobo.

Volunteer Clowns Ray And Linda Faczan
70 Seven And Kor-Kee
Whiteface clowns wear full white makeup on their face with precise and delicate red and white features. (The European Whiteface clown even goes as far as painting his ears red.) A Whiteface clown usually dresses extravagantly and has a costume mostly made up of white with some color trim.

Auguste clowns wear fleshtone makeup with white around the mouth and eyes, often with a black line surrounding the white. This type of clown usually has a large ball-shaped comedy nose. August clowns have the widest range of costumes of all clowns. They often exaggerate their clothing with such things as over-sized coats, undersized hats or very short pants and colorful suspenders.

Hobo clowns are either happy hobos or sad tramps. They have a black coal or a soot-like appearance with white around the eyes and mouth. The up or down shape of their eyebrows reveals whether they are a sad tramp or a happy hobo. As you would expect, hobo and tramp clowns wear costumes that are old and worn.

Can you tell from their pictures which type of clown Kor-Kee and 70 Seven are?

The answer is at the end of the article.

How Kor-Kee And 70 Seven Got Started Clowning

Kor-Kee and 70 Seven started clowning about 6 years ago.

Having been invited for a number of years to join the local clown club, but not having the time to accept, 70 Seven finally gave in and went to the club’s clown school.


Do You Know What Coulrophobia Is?

It is fear of clowns. Characteristic symptoms are such things as breathlessness and heart palpatations. Treatment normally involves progressive desensitization, starting with things like looking at photos of clowns and working up to being in their presence.

He is a fun and funny guy naturally and thought it would be great to have another way to make people laugh.

And, because they do virtually everything together, Kor-Kee joined him.

After they were trained, Kor-Kee and 70 Seven became active in the Classic Clown Club which has 25 or 30 members ranging in age from 30-something to the mid-80s. That’s right, mid-80s. Do you need any more proof that clowning and volunteer work keep you young and active?

The local clown club is affiliated with a larger international organization called Clowns of America International.

The local chapters – called “alleys” – have regular meetings, plan appearances – which they call “gigs” – and have workshops. Members can also attend conventions and alleys can compete for national awards.

What Is It Like To Be A Volunteer Clown

Kor-Kee, 70 Seven and their cohorts entertain at festivals, banquets, business picnics, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, school carnivals and community gatherings of all types.

At their gigs, Kor-Kee likes to face paint while 70 Seven makes balloons and performs magic tricks. They both do” walk arounds” where they stroll through the crowd entertaining, largely with sight gags. Sometimes, they present scripted clown skits.

When I asked Kor-Kee and 70 Seven what is the best thing about clowning, they had the same answer. It’s the satisfaction of bringing a smile to someone or raising a person’s spirits, especially at nursing homes and in hospitals. That satisfied feeling makes all the effort worthwhile and keeps this couple clowning.

Actually, when they visit hospitals, 70 Seven and Kor-Kee wear different costumes. Instead of their usual clown garb, they wear lab coats and carry stethoscopes. Even their names are different. At the hospital, Kor-Kee’s name tag says “Dr. Lauren Gitis” and 70 Seven’s reads “Dr. Gerri Attrix.”

Volunteer Clowns Ray And Linda Faczan
70 Seven And Kor-Kee
There is a knack to visiting patients in hospitals. There are protocols that must be observed. Not even clowns can barge into a patient’s room without knocking and requesting permission to enter. And the clowns have to know about hospital procedures, too. For example, if a patient’s chart shows they are “NPO,” the clowns have to know that means “nothing by mouth” so that, if the patient asks for a glass of water, the clown will not unknowingly give it to them.

When visiting hospitals, Drs. Lauren Gitis and Gerri Attrix take fish stickers which they attach to a patient’s IV bag while announcing, “There, now you’ve got an aquarium.”

When not performing, these clowns are constantly working to improve their character, their costume and their craft. They continually develop new costumes, discover new props, learn new tricks and create new gags they can use to entertain.

Kor-Kee And 70 Seven Are Christian Clowns

The red dot that Kor-Kee and 70 Seven wear on their clown faces identify them as Christian clowns. They think of their clown service as their ministry in life. All of their gigs are family oriented but they are only religious if the group they are entertaining requests a religious message or theme.

Oh, what type of clowns are Kor-Kee and 70 Seven? If you guessed Auguste clowns, you are right.

Count The Acts Of Kindness

Acts of kindness are all around us, but they usually pass into history unnoticed, or at least unappreciated. Fortunately, the story I am about to tell you was saved on film for all of us to savor . . .

Nine-year-old Caine Monroy spent his summer vacation at his father’s Los Angeles auto parts store. To pass the time, the budding entrepreneur designed and built an elaborate arcade out of taped-together cardboard boxes.

Caine offered two ticket prices. For a $1 regular ticket, you could play 4 games. But for a $2 “Fun Pass,” you could play 500 times. Unfortunately, because the shop didn’t have many visitors, no one took Caine up on his offers.

Then, one day, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick happened into the shop because he needed a part for his old car. While he was there, Nirvan became Caine’s first customer.

But that was just the beginning of Nirvan’s kindness. He orchestrated an elaborate flash mob through Facebook and Reddit that brought a huge crowd to Caine’s arcade to play his games.

Nirvan captured all of this on an 11-minute film called “Caine’s Arcade.” He also created a website where visitors can contribute to a college fund for this Steve-Jobs-in-training. In less than one week, the fund had received commitments of more than $125,000!

Kindness: The Power Of Nice

Kindness:  The Power Of NiceAn act of kindness, generosity or compassion toward another person can change that person’s day or, occasionally, their entire life.

According to Leo Buscaglia, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

A kind act gives aid and a benefit to another. It is a favor, a courtesy, an act of charity.

Acts of kindness can be large, such as volunteering regularly for a non-profit, or small, like these everyday opportunities . . .

  • Smile at someone

  • Say “hello” to a stranger

  • Let someone have the better parking space

  • Give your seat to someone who needs it more

    Acts of kindness

  • Help someone get something that is out of their reach

  • Hold the door open for a stranger

  • Leave a really good tip

  • Visit a shut-in

  • Stop at the scene of a breakdown or accident to make sure everyone is all right.

  • Be courteous, say “please” and “thank you.”

Some consider kindness so powerful that they claim it as their guiding philosophy. The Dalai Lama has said that “There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

Kindness is best when it is truly an act of generosity, done without expecting anything in return. Ideally, you have kindness as one of your core values and you perform acts of kindness simply because it is the right thing to do.

However, as often is the case, doing right benefits you in unexpected ways. According to many scientific studies, acts of kindness can make you healthier, happier and more successful.

Let’s look at what the studies show about “the power of nice.” These are some of the ways you benefit from doing acts of kindness.

Kindness Makes You Happier

If you want to be happy, be kind.

Most of us know that from experience. When we do something kind, we feel better, happier.

A hug is an act of kindnessIt turns out that the kindness-happiness link has been proven by a number of studies.

For example, a 2008 study by scientists from the University of British Columbia showed that spending money on others was a sure-fire way to make yourself happier. The study found that those who spent the most money on others were the happiest and that those who spent the least were the least happy.

Another study, involving a sample of Japanese women, found that simply counting their acts of kindness made the participants happier. On top of that, 80% reported that the feelings stayed with them for hours and sometimes even days after their acts of kindness.

Kindness Makes You Healthier

Studies show that kindness actually makes you more healthy.

Allan Luks, the former executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Health and executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City, studied kindness and documented his findings in his book, The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others.

Luks studied more than 3,000 volunteers of all ages at more than 20 organizations throughout the country. Based on his research, he saw a clear cause-and-effect relationship between helping and good health.

Kindness:  The Power Of NiceLuks’ concluded, “Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders both serious and minor, psychological and physical.”

There is even evidence that kindness helps you live longer. A 2005 study done in California discovered that frequent volunteers had a 33% lower risk of dying than people who did not do any volunteering and that people who volunteered sometimes had a 25% lower risk of death.

A 1999 study done by the Buck Center for Research in Aging, in California, found that those who volunteered for two or more different organizations had a 44% lower death rate than those who didn’t do any volunteering.

Kindness Makes You More Successful

Many studies have shown that happiness leads not only to a higher income but also to more energy, better health, a longer life span, a more satisfying social life, more confidence and a higher quality of work.

Most people believe that these things are what makes us happy, but most of the evidence suggests that it’s the other way around. When we feel happy, these things come to us much more easily. Happiness, studies show, comes first. And kindness promotes happiness.

Kindness Enhances Your Sense Of Well-Being

How you treat others affects your self-esteem and your sense of well-being.

Random Act of KindnessIn 2008, a study published by the UK Government Office for Science concluded that one of the 5 ways to mental well-being was to “give.” The report advised:

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a a community group. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

Another 2008 study found that those who “volunteered my time,” “gave money to a person in need” or “listened carefully to another’s point of view” were happier, more satisfied with their lives and had a greater sense of well-being than those who “had sex purely to get pleasure,” “bought a new piece of jewelry or electronics equipment just for myself” or “went to a big party.”

A Surprising Benefit Of Kindness

Would you be surprised to learn that kindness makes you more attractive than good looks?

That is the conclusion of a large, international study which found that, in all cultures, when asked what they would most prefer in a mate, kindness was the number one quality for both men and women. It beat both good looks and financial prospects.

Pay It Forward

Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? It felt great, didn’t it? It made you feel valued and it may have restored your faith in humanity.

Why don’t you give that same gift to someone else today?

What Positive Psychology Teaches Us About Happiness

What Is Positive Psychology?

Positive PsychologyPositive psychology studies the strengths and virtues that can make us happier and more fulfilled.

Historically, psychology has been primarily concerned with relieving suffering. The focus has been on psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

One result of this focus on the negative is that psychology has had little to say about the positive. That is, while psychology has been effective treating problems, it has not offered much guidance on how to be more happy, how to prosper, flourish, thrive.

To correct this imbalance, over the last 10 to 20 years, or so, the field of positive psychology has evolved to empirically study such things as happiness and well-being.

9 Happiness Lessons From Positive Psychology

Research in the field of positive psychology has yielded these valuable lessons that we can apply to our lives:

  • Money doesn’t necessarily buy well-being. Especially where income is above the poverty level, the correlation between wealth and happiness is weak. However, interestingly, research has shown that spending money on other people can make people happier.
  • People who express gratitude regularly are more optimistic, make better progress toward goals and have better physical health and more well-being. And they help others more, too.
  • When people see others perform good deeds, they experience an emotion called ‘elevation’ and its motivates them to perform their own good deeds.
  • In some situations, negative thinking leads to more accuracy and optimistic thinking can be associated with an underestimation of risks.

    However, most of the research shows that people who are optimistic or happy are more successful in work, school and sports; are less depressed; have fewer physical health problems; and have better relationships with other people.
  • People are resilient. Healthy human development can take place even under conditions of great adversity.
  • Engaging in an experience that produces ‘flow’ is particularly gratifying, so gratifying, in fact, that people are willing to do it for its own sake, rather than for what they will get out of it. The activity is its own reward.

    What’s “flow?” It is where you are so fully engaged in an activity that your self-awareness disappears and your sense of time is distorted. Time seems to stand still. Athletes call this being “in the zone.” You’ve probably experienced flow either at work or in some activity that you enjoy and are good at.
  • Strong social relationships and character strengths are some of the best ways to combat disappointments and setbacks.
  • Work can be important to well-being, especially when people are able to engage in work that is purposeful and meaningful.
  • While happiness is influenced by genetics, people can learn to be happier by developing optimism, gratitude and altruism.

Where You Can Learn More About Positive Psychology

You can learn more about positive psychology at the Positive Psychology Center website.

They even have a series of questionnaires, such as the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire that you can confidentially complete and get immediate feedback on how you compare to others who have completed the questionnaire.

Volunteering In America

If I have a life philosophy that can be reduced to bumper sticker length, it is this: We’re all in this together.

Leave footprints by volunteeringOur differences are insignificant when compared to the things we have in common. Ultimately, almost all of us want the same things out of life: to succeed, have some fun, do some good and, if we’re lucky, leave footprints so someone will remember we were here.

One way many of us recognize our commonalities and our inter-dependence is through volunteering. I’ve written about this “secret” to a good life before, given you inspirational quotes about volunteering and even told you about research which shows that volunteers live longer!

Fascinating new statistics are out about volunteering in America. They come from the Corporation for National and Community Service which has released “Volunteering in America,” a detailed, multi-year report on volunteering trends and demographics.

Some of the most interesting findings are presented in this infographic.

Volunteering In America 2010