Friday, April 25, 2008

Do As They Do

Al Gore’s efforts on behalf of global warming and Oprah’s show “The Big Give” have inspired me lately, not only because of their particular achievements but also because they’re educating people about doing good and hoping those people will influence others to do the same.

Some scientific studies suggest that positive emotions are less likely to be genetic than negative ones. So the question is, can compassion be taught? It seems so. Researchers have found that the environment can affect the parts of the brain involved in positive emotions. And a landmark study found that kids with compassionate parents tend to be more altruistic, suggesting that you can teach by example, findings that have been confirmed elsewhere.

That’s good news for the future. The Giving USA Foundation at Indiana’s Center on Philanthropy reported that the contributions of individual Americans are huge, far exceeding contributions by the government as a whole. A couple of years ago, in just three and a half months, individual contributions for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita came to $3.12 billion, “a record for a single disaster and recovery effort.”

Americans are all about caring and giving back. And by example, they are teaching the next generation to do the same.