The Benefits of Giving

Why do people become philanthropists? The benefits are many. They get to enjoy being generous, which has been shown to have measurable positive effects on our health. They get to build goodwill in their communities, which is often returned in kind. And they can create new personal friendships, which has been shown to enrich our lives and help us live longer.

Usually, we think of rich people when we think of philanthropists. But you don't have to be wealthy to enjoy the benefits of giving. Here's a case to show that anyone can be a philanthropist within their means…

While serving in the Navy during World War II, Thomas Cannon survived several accidents that killed more than 300 of his shipmates. Cannon credits his escape from these accidents as the reason for his philanthropy, saying "Such escapes made me believe that I was being preserved for something."

Starting in 1972, Cannon began donating money, and he frequently chose people that he had heard about in the news. Over 33 years, Cannon gifted over $150,000, often by mailing $1,000 checks to the staff of the local newspaper with instructions about who should receive the money. His charity helped support a local group that volunteered in the elementary school, a woman who started a youth center in her low-income neighborhood, and an orphaned teen who was active in his community.

Cannon managed these donations on a $20,000/year postal worker salary. In time, he was forced to quit his job and become a full-time caretaker of his wife. That's when much of his philanthropy came back to him, as the community came together to provide him and his wife with a house and medical care.

Before he died, Cannon suggested the best way to honor his memory would be for others to just “Help somebody.”

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