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Column: Giving of yourself is a priceless gift to others

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Racheal Hill was raised in a home in which education was not encouraged. After her mother found the courage to go back to school and attain a nursing degree at Ivy Tech Community College–Columbus/Franklin, Racheal knew she wanted more, as well.

The road has been difficult. She graduated from McDowell Education Center and the Young Mothers’ Education program while working at Subway for five years.

Having a relative who struggled with substance abuse, Racheal discovered that her calling was counseling others with substance abuse issues. In May, she will receive an associate of applied science in human services with two concentrations — correctional rehabilitation services and substance abuse. After graduation, she plans to transfer to Indiana Wesleyan University to work toward a bachelor’s degree in addictions counseling.

There were many individuals who mentored and encouraged Racheal along the way. One was Chris Bolt, an academic adviser and adjunct faculty member at Ivy Tech, who taught her first math course. Chris said that Racheal was the most positive person he had ever met and told her so. Racheal said, “He was the first person to make me believe in myself.”

In my position as executive director of resource development, I am always reminded that giving comes in many forms. Giving financially is a wonderful thing, and it is my job to oversee the financial contributions that come in to the college. Giving in the form that Chris Bolt chose can’t be quantified. Chris’s one comment to Racheal was the impetus for her to succeed in her classes and in life.

The benefits of giving are well documented. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have discovered that the joy of giving is hardwired into our brains. They determined that the act of giving increases activity in the midbrain, a region associated with pleasure, such as that attained through eating and exercise. Researchers at Harvard University have concluded that giving significantly boosts happiness.

This is the season of giving and giving thanks. We all appreciate what others have done for us.

Chris Bolt commented, “There have been many people who have influenced my life. To be able to affect others in a positive way is a tremendous feeling. You can’t buy it. You can’t make it up. I am glad that my comment had a positive impact on Rachael. I feel as if I both paid back to those who have helped me and paid forward to those who will, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to help someone else.”

Thinking about the potential of Racheal’s life and those whom she will help with her education, experience and caring, I am grateful to those who give of themselves to help others. I’m reminded of a comment by Leo Buscaglia, a professor in the department of special education at the University of Southern California:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Therese Copeland is executive director of resource development at Ivy Tech Community College–Columbus/Franklin.

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