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Why People With Less Give More, Relatively Speaking

Regularly volunteering at Haven Toronto not one day, not two, but as much as seven days a week gives Bogdan (pictured) a greater sense of self-worth. Arthur donates to Haven Toronto to help ensure that the services are there for other people. Ernie collects money to donate in memory of family. And Patrick volunteers to show his appreciation for a place that has always been there for him. Each elder man is homeless or precariously housed and each is a client of Haven Toronto. After sharing their stories, we were asked, "Why do people with less give more, relatively speaking?"

Bogdan, Arthur, Ernie and Patrick have their own unique reasons for giving back. In more general terms as to why someone with little money and few possessions is so generous and willing to share, here's what we found...

Psychology Today reports that a study comparing low and high income individuals revealed that "low income or low social class participants were more generous and believed they should give more of their annual income to charity (4.95 percent vs. 2.95 percent)." The study also suggested that the low income or low social class participants were "more likely to trust strangers and showed more helping behaviour towards someone in distress.”

Why do those who have less give more, relatively speaking? Part of the reason might be that they are more compassionate and more sensitive to the need of others. Psychologists refer to their way of thinking as a “contextualist tendency” marked by an external focus on what is going on in their environment and with other people.

On the other hand, those who have more tend to be self-centred with “solipsistic tendencies” that are concentrated on their own internal states, goals, motivations, and emotions.

The Psychology Today articles concludes, "There is no denying that wealth can provide comfort and security, and a lack of it can produce real hardships. But once our basic needs and even some comforts are met, psychologists suggest there might be greater value in experiencing compassion for others and acting on this impulse."

For Haven Toronto’s clients like Bogdan, Arthur, Ernie and Patrick, generosity with time and money is often about self-worth, a concern for others and the importance of giving back.

Adapted from 'Why People Who Have Less Give More'

By Utpal Dholakia Ph.D.

Psychology Today

For Danny, George, Ernie and Patrick, it's about self-worth, a concern for others, the desire to give back and pride.




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