Many of you know that I spend a lot of time with victims and survivors of human trafficking/modern slavery. I hope that they gain as much from me as I gain from them.

The first time I volunteered at Philadelphia’s New Day Drop-In Center for trafficked women, I witnessed one of the most extraordinary acts of generosity I’ve ever seen. A woman asked if there were any socks she could have. Although there were other items, the socks were all gone. Another victim seeking a temporary safe haven reached down to untie her shoelaces. She offered the other woman the socks off her feet.


Why We Help: Compassion, Generosity and Altruism 

That day I learned much about compassion, altruism and generously giving whatever resources we may have.

At the New Day Center, on a mural entitled
"These Hands Have…" a woman put
her handprint and the word "served."

Think about a time when you helped someone without asking for anything in return. What was that situation? How do you feel when you have helped someone just for the sake of helping? If you’re like I am, you feel great—like something inside is glowing.

Maybe you gave something that a child needed. Perhaps you gave your time. money or sweat equity to help a group of people. Maybe you worked on a Rotary project that made a difference in your local community or in another area of the world.
What was it like?

Rotarians are unparalleled as a group of international volunteer humanitarians who give and help for the purpose of creating goodwill and a better world. In fact, Nikita Nesynov has accomplished a project about this. (Visit

As it turns out, the stuff that keeps Rotarians giving and helping might be hard-wired into us.

According to the New York Times article by Nicholas Wade, “We May Be Born to Help,” some scientists have concluded “that babies are innately sociable and helpful.”  At 18 months old, children will help open a door or pick up a dropped item, says Dr. Michael Tomasello.

You’ve probably seen a similar situation. At a fundraiser a few weeks ago (See, I witnessed a four-year-old girl bend down to help a girl who was not yet one.

Tomasello says that helping doesn’t need to be rewarded and it happens even without being taught; it’s a natural instinct and not “something imposed by parents or culture.” In his book, “Why We Cooperate,” the behavioral scientist writes that “children are altruistic by nature.” This trait may have begun in early human evolution to help people survive, a conclusion reached by other researchers, too.

While it’s true that not everyone is helpful—maybe much of the desire to reach out and lend a hand is squashed by hard times or learning that it doesn’t always make sense—Rotarians can serve as examples for others to follow. And we can seek out situations where helping exists and expand them.

Here’s why and how I choose to help one cause:

When I was in India on a polio National Immunization Day trip in 2004, our international team of Rotarians visited a computer lab that had been furnished by a few Rotary clubs. On a computer screen we found a note written by a student who was learning English: “Some one give and get back, what they give in other forms, but Rotary gives of only gives.” The students explained: Although some people give in order to receive other things in return, Rotary gives for the sake of giving.


Kudos – keep up the great work, Rotarians! (And please share any photos of you doing a project when it felt great to give.)


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