MacKenzie Bezos, who became one of the wealthiest persons in the world after divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has pledged to give at least half her fortune to charity. (Her personal fortune is currently estimated at over $36 billion.)
Bezos recently signed the Giving Pledge, a program initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates back in 2010. According to its website, the Pledge "is a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back."
"In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share," Bezos wrote in a thoughtful letter explaining her decision.
Bezos, who is the author of two books, also shared a beautiful quote from Anne Dillard's The Writing Life--a quote she says has inspired her for years. The passage was referring to the art of writing, and how writers shouldn't save their best ideas for later, instead using them right away:
Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book ... The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better ... Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
Bezos described the passage as "words that felt true in context, and also true in life." She goes on to extol the benefits of giving, and not just money:
"There are lots of resources each of us can pull from our safes to share with others," writes Bezos. "Time, attention, knowledge, patience, creativity, talent, effort, humor, compassion."
Bezos is right, of course. The timeless advice holds true today more than ever:
There truly is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.
Giving makes you happy.
Every interaction you share with another person offers an opportunity to give, in one way or another. The fascinating thing about giving to others is that while it seems we are the ones providing value, we often benefit just as much as the recipient.
Research supports this conclusion. For example, one study led by neuroscientist Jorge Moll found that when people gave to charity, it activated regions of the brain correlated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, leading givers to experience a "warm glow."
"Something greater rises up every time we give," writes Bezos. "The easy breathing of a friend we sit with when we had other plans, the relief on our child's face when we share the story of our own mistake, laughter at the well-timed joke we tell to someone who is crying, the excitement of the kids in the school we send books to, the safety of the families who sleep in the shelters we fund."
"These immediate results are only the beginning," she continues. "Their value keeps multiplying and spreading in ways we may never know."
To illustrate, think about your favorite boss. Do you care where they graduated from, or what kind of degree they have? Do you even know?
But I bet you do appreciate the minutes they took out of their schedule to listen when you had a problem. Or their willingness to roll up their sleeves and help out with the dirty work.
Or, how about in your family? It's the small things that go a long way: an offer to make a cup of coffee or tea. Pitching in with the dishes or other housework. Helping carry in groceries from the car.
Every giving act helps to build deep and trusting relationships--like the countless delicate brushstrokes that make up a beautiful painting.
Every day you are faced with countless opportunities to give to others: a family member. A colleague. A friend. A neighbor. A flight attendant. A barista. A gas station attendant. A homeless person.
Take advantage of these opportunities, and you won't only get the best out of others--you'll get the best out of yourself, too.
And as you look for these chances, I encourage you to follow MacKenzie Bezos's brilliant advice:
Don't wait. And keep at it until the safe is empty.