Durable Human (2 book series)

When Disaster Strikes Others, Feel the Pinch of Generosity

If you were lucky enough not to be blown away by disasters like Harvey or Irma, you might feel powerless in the face of all the suffering and destruction. But you can flip that attitude into action by brandishing your human-only superpower of generosity.

Consider the Houston Independent School district. Harvey’s rain was still pounding when district officials decided every one of their 215,000 students could eat breakfast and lunch for free the entire school year. They knew returning to normalcy would take time and, if students were to continue to grow and learn, they needed regular nutritious meals.

In Texas, the display of durability was stunning on the part of the Cajun Navy and other just-plain-folks freely giving of their time and skills. That’s why, in the days before Irma, Florida’s governor made an explicit pitch for volunteers. Within 36 hours, 8,000 residents had signed up with VolunteerFlorida.

That’s the thing about generosity. It takes effort.

Philosopher C.S. Lewis wrote:

If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.

Donating an old, stained coat may count as “generosity,” but it can actually be a relief to pitch it. True generosity hurts, if only a little.

Generosity for The World

Considering our overall state of busy-ness, to feel the pinch of generosity may be a matter of time. Like the moments it takes to grab cans and boxes from your cupboard and head to a place like this where they were filling a truck bound for Texas. 

Two high school volunteers, who happened to be brothers, were there sealing and hoisting boxes. “It makes us feel better and appreciate more what we have,” said one. “It gives us a better sense of what we can do as a community,” said the other.

The star-studded Hand in Hand televised benefit raised $14 million, unfortunately a mere drop in bucket.

In this time of widespread need, time well spent would be, instead of checking Facebook (again), to click on Houston Food Bank to help feed the parents of the district students. Houston Habitat for Humanity and International Relief Teams are among the charities found highly reputable at Charity Navigator. A world of needy causes and individual people are on GoFundMe-type crowd-funding sites.

Generosity at Home

When disaster is striking others, to feel the pinch of generosity among your loved ones may mean keeping your thirst for news at bay. Having the TV or radio on 24-7 isn’t good for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, due to the scary images and sounds, media viewing around younger ones should be limited.

For older kids, it’s a different kind of pinch. When you know they’ve been watching media, steal some moments away to sit and talk. Put down your phone, look them in the eyes, and really listen to how they feel.

Hugs Instead of Hand-wringing

In The Durable Human Manifesto, a hug is defined as “a combination muscle relaxant, tranquilizer, and love potion.” Freely dispense hugs among those in your household. The warm human contact not only reassures them, it will calm you down, too. While you hug, take a deep breath and linger so the feel-good hormone oxytocin can really kick in.

That’s the irony. Reaching out to others makes you happier.

In fact, says Richard Davidson, founder of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, “The most effective strategy for changing specific circuits in the brain associated with well-being is generosity.”

I’d love to see Pinch Meetups created for the single purpose of doing projects to help other people.

What are your ideas for feeling the pinch?


This article is based on the book, How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design.

About the author: Jenifer Joy Madden is a health journalist, digital media professor, tech hygienist, and inveterate parent of three durable young adults. Her words have informed millions on news outlets including ABC News, The Washington Post, and in her books. Learn more about this author on Google+.

Download The Durable Human Manifesto here for free.

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