Giving back is part of our American roots. When the early colonists were trying to survive, they relied on support from others. Everyone had unique skills, and they had to share what they knew to make it through each year.
Later on, Benjamin Franklin founded the country’s first volunteer firehouse. This concept continues today with about 70% of all firehouses filled with volunteers.
Whether it was trying to survive or helping someone in need, our early ancestors saw the power of giving back. It’s no wonder that the tradition continues today.
Booker Washington said, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” Many have figured this out from their experience. Now, researchers are proving that helping others does increase our happiness.
Giving is like throwing a pebble in a pond. It makes a big splash where it lands and then large ripples form. These rings start to move away from the point the stone fell. Each one is moving further and further away.
Giving back can have the same effect. Those that receive help want to do what they can for someone else. Today, we call this “Paying it Forward.”
There are so many great stories of this in action. One of my favorites is about a pizza shop in Philadelphia. The owner, Mason Wartman, wanted to do something to help the homeless in the city.
Then he came up with a simple plan. He would let customers pay an extra dollar and pre-pay for a slice of pizza. They would get a post-it note, leave a message and hang it on the wall. Anyone can come off the street and redeem a post-it note for a piece of pizza. Today, they’ve given away more than 150,000 slices.
Free slices of pizza

That’s a lot of free pizza

Whether we are doing something small or large, our actions make a difference. One of the most significant ways people give back in our Country is to serve in the military.
I never took this step, but both of my Grandfathers did. One served in the Korean War and another in World War II. They never talked about their experience, so I don’t know what drove them to serve. What I do know is that it was a huge sacrifice. We can enjoy the freedoms of our way of life because of our veterans and those that serve today.
I may never have the impact my grandfather’s had, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. I’ve been very fortunate in life. Right about the time I felt like I should give back more, an opportunity showed up on my doorstep.
I’ll never forget, a couple of my neighbors dropped in on my birthday and said, “Chad, you need to run for City Council.” As I processed the question, a few things ran through my mind. First, I had no desire to be a politician but, I remembered my Grandmother served on the Council of our local town. She was never one for politics either, but she was always one to do the right thing and to help others.
Then I thought about the community. I hadn’t lived in town long, but I had a sense that I would be here for a long time. I felt like it was important to help the City grow in the right way. My time might help the neighbors I had that day and those that would come years later. 
So I said yes and got to work campaigning. I was fortunate that the community voted me in and then I set off to learn the job. As the years went on, I always had a feeling that I could do more and have a more significant impact. That led me to start the Arts Foundation.
The funny thing about giving back is that while I’m doing something for others, I always seem to get the reward. Serving others makes me feel great.
I’ve also learned a lot from my volunteer time. I’ve held positions that gave me a chance to learn new skills. I had an opportunity to meet a lot of great people. And giving back also reminds me to be grateful for all that I have.
Kindness is free but worth so much more. We may never know the impact of our help, but I can promise it will be worth more than we can imagine.
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”– Chinese Proverb
This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.