“He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21).
The story is told of a poor widow and her teenage daughter who lived in a rural area in Montana (USA) during the Great Depression (around 1929). One day, while the daughter was engaged in reading a romantic novel, her mother told her:
«You will end up forgetting that story in a short time, but if you’d like, you can do something that will never be forgotten.Look at our neighbor, Mrs. Eberhart. She doesn’t have any means and a harsh winter is coming. Knit her a wool sweater and secretly give it to her so she wouldn’t get cold.»
The young girl agreed and, in a few days, finished the garment. She placed it in a box, wrapped it as a gift and left it at the neighbor’s door with a note: «A gift from someone who cares.» Mother and daughter noticed Mrs. Eberhart wearingthe garment on several seasons. The teenager became an old lady, and she always remembers her gesture with a smile on her face and a warm sensation that motivated her to more people.
Jesus said, «It is more blessed to give than to receive» (Acts 20:35). What is the blessing of giving? The effects of helping others are vast. For example, they are an efficient measure against depression, both to prevent it and to reduce its symptoms. In fact, the activity programs for those who attend depression psychotherapy almost always include altruistic tasks, even if they are just brief ones. We know today that these actions generate organic responses as the internal secretion of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Such substances transmit to the person who receives them compassion, tranquility and emotional closeness toward others, besides imposing barriers to the negative emotions like sadness, hate, revenge, hostility, fear and resentment.
Apart from the benefits of physical and mental health, the Bible promises other blessings, «Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. «The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth» (Ps. 41:1-2). Furthermore, the Scriptures present the transcendence of the acts of kindness, according to the words of Jesus in His judgment upon the nations, «Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matt. 25:34-36).