New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Eyes that see the good in things- Begin a tradition of giving


June 10, 2019

This week I met a very nice man. I had heard about John Scanson several times as, one by one, parts of his story kept popping up on Facebook. As was mentioned in the front page article, the Transcript covered a story last year when he built 24 handmade birdhouses and gave them to the students in Mrs. Hager’s class at NR-S.

Some time later, a friend posted a picture of her granddaughter’s smiling face, along with other Kensal elementary students who had just received handmade doll beds from him. Then, not long ago, there was a Facebook story about how he gave away almost 200 birdhouses to the NR-S elementary students.

Then, I found out that those stories were just the tip of the iceberg. This humble, kind-hearted man has spent countless hours building projects that have made many children and birds happy. He’s made and given away over 500 birdhouse and 160 doll beds. He’s not finished yet. His next project is to build about 60 barns to give away. And he’s planted 78 hills of pumpkins with the intention of giving away a couple hundred pumpkins this fall.

Sitting under the pergola in Roger and Betty Westby’s garden, I asked if I could record the interview so I couldjust talk and not have to take notes. The flowers were already beautiful in their garden and a light breeze provided a respite from the heat of the day before. The tape recorder I had counted on for my memory caught the birds that were singing in the background.

Of course, we had to stop talking for a bit when a mama cat walked across the yard and disappeared under the brick fireplace. It turns out that this “community cat” which turned up and has been kind of adopted by the neighborhood showed up with kittens yesterday and moved them under Westby’s fireplace. They put up a barricade of sorts but when Roger moved it, those kittens which already had their eyes open, looked out at us with curiosity but not with fear.

At the end of the interview, I asked John what it was that made him decide that he wanted to build and give away his projects to kids. He shrugged, said that he’d been a school janitor for 14 years, but then said it was something he did for himself. It keeps him busy. It makes him happy.

His response got me thinking, and of course, searching the internet and it turns out John already knows what the experts are telling us. You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you give someone something or you do something nice for someone? Well, it turns up that research is showing that, not only does it feel good, but it’s also good for your health. According to research, it has a positive impact on both your physical and mental health and it can contribute to a longer life.

These researchers have been measuring the benefits of giving and their findings reveal that giving helps reduce stress and depression, promote healthy social connections and provide a sense of purpose. According to Stephen G. Post, professor of preventive medicine and the director and founder of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, suggests that giving is just as important to maintaining health as avoiding tobacco and obesity.

In his book, “Why Good Things Happen to Good People,” Post wrote, “The startling findings from our many studies demonstrate that if you engage in helping activities as a teen, you will still be reaping health benefits 60 or 70 years later. Generous behavior is closely associated with reduced risk of illness and mortality and lower rates of depression.”

A study at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect – that fuzzy feeling.

Further evidence of the positive effects of volunteerism was found in a study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in 2013 in Psychology and Aging. Researchers discovered that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

It also showed that giving to others also has long-lasting physical and psychological benefits by boosting both mental and physical health and helping givers to live longer and have happier lives. It shows that you can experience lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, less anxiety, decreased depression and increased self-esteem.

Four reasons to begin a tradition of giving:

 1. Giving makes you feel happy. The brain’s pleasure circuits are stimulated by acts of charity and release “good feeling” chemicals like endorphins, which give you a sense of euphoria, and oxytocin, which promotes tranquility and inner peace.

 2. Giving is good for your health. Stress is the catalyst for many known health issues. Because giving has been proven to decrease blood pressure and reduce stress, it promotes longer life and better health.

 3. Giving promotes social connection. Studies show that when you give to others, your generosity is often continued down the line to someone else or returned to you. This strengthens our ties to each other.

  4. Giving is contagious. When one person gives, it inspires others to do the same. ​

Biologically, giving can create a warm glow that activates the regions in the brain associated with pleasure, connection with other people and trust. The feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin are released. Researchers have even found that when they look at the MRI’s of people who gave to others, they found that giving stimulates a mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain, creating what is known as the helper’s high. And they say the giver’s high is addictive too.

Remember that commercial that said, “This is your brain on drugs?”

Well, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say instead, “This is your brain on a giver’s high?”

Thanks John and Roger for the morning of laughter for the work that you both do and for the example of giving and helping that you set for our community!

We would love to share local stories about the good things your eyes are seeing.

Stop in to share your stories with us, give us a call at 947-2417 or e-mail us at [email protected] Or send a letter to Eyes That See the Good in Things, c/o Allison Lindgren, The Transcript 6 8th St N., New Rockford, ND 58356.


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