Selflessness is also Self-Care

Charity Starts at Home


This famous phrase entails that we care for our own households before anything else, and we prioritise our family’s needs above everything else.


We offer our time, money, efforts, and energy to the people we care about the most.


But what about the less fortunate, who do not have a family or a home?  Who cares for those who are left uncared for?


Mandela Day, celebrated annually on the 18th of July, serves as a great reminder to all of us about the things we often forget about or neglect. It forces us to take a step back, shift our attention from our own problems, and humble ourselves by helping a neighbour in need. Mandela Day is not a public holiday. Rather, it is a day to honour the legacy of former South African president, Nelson Mandela, his values, and his commitment to justice and serving society.


Mandela Day is therefore a call to action based on the fact that each individual has the ability to make an impact. It is based on the notions behind one of his most famous quotes, ‘’Today we should all ask ourselves: What have I done to improve the surroundings in which I live? Do I litter or do I protect my surroundings? Do I buy stolen goods, or do I help reduce crime? ‘’


There are numerous things that you can do for Mandela day, as long as your efforts are altruistic and intended to benefit others. Whether you help out at an animal shelter, assist a friend with applying for a job, or donate a few blankets to your local shelter. You may choose to spend money, time, or energy, but the point is that you are doing something for a greater cause.


The idea behind the Mandela Day campaign is that Nelson Mandela fought for social justice for 67 years. Let us start with 67 minutes.


This year, at Relocation Africa, we decided to spend our 67 minutes caring for the less fortunate at the Haven Night Shelter located in Wynberg, Cape Town. It is a homeless shelter that cares for adults, reconnects them with family members they lost contact with, and help them reintegrate into society. The work they do is admiring and their start up story, which is available on their website, is so inspiring. They are an organisation that was founded for no other reason than to be at the service of those in need, and the passion of their employees is evident in the manner that they carry out their care.


We took the liberty of preparing lunch for the people at the shelter and personally delivered it. The members of the organisation met us with warm smiles. Their kindness was so contagious, and we listened to the way they expressed their sentiments about the people at the shelter. We witnessed the beautiful relationships between the guests and the employees, which speaks to the sincerity of their deeds.


And while all this happened on the 18th of July, this is not about Mandela day. Mandela day is merely a means and an opportunity that comes around once a year and forces us to remember those in need. Instead, this is about serving a cause greater than yourself, helping someone without expecting anything in return, putting your own needs aside and prioritising the needs of someone else. It is about using the means, energy, health, and blessings that was bestowed upon you by the Creator to help the creation.


Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, is not only beneficial for the recipient of the help, but also makes a positive impact in your community and on yourself. We often become so focused on our problems that we forget to acknowledge our privilege. Helping others allows you to step out of the comfort of your life and into the reality of others. When we partake in prosocial actions or activities, although we are tending to the wellbeing of others, we also gain the multitude of personal benefits that helping people have on our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.


An article published in The Journal of Positive Psychology asked 400 participants to report on how frequently they engage in different acts of selflessness and how meaningful their life feels. The results showed that participants who were more altruistic reported a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. This is a fact that has been known for centuries, as even Aristotle wrote that finding happiness and fulfilment is achieved by ‘’loving rather than being loved.’’ Ironically, it is through giving that we receive.


Doing something for a greater cause helps to meet our basic psychological needs. It enables us to feel competent, to feel a sense of belonging, as well as allowing us to be more sincere in our intentions and interactions. According to another article published by Psychology Today, helping others is also said to assist us in regulating our own emotions, decrease symptoms of depression, and ultimately improve our mental wellbeing.


In short, volunteering your time, money, or energy to help others does not just make the world better, it also makes you better.


Mandela day merely serves as a reminder of the joys and reward that lies in being a part of something larger than yourself. Just because it has passed does not imply that our kindness should decrease.


Here are a few recommendations on how to give more meaning to your life, even after Mandela day:

  • Start small.
  • One person cannot solve world hunger or change the world but every day, small gestures could be more impactful than you could ever possibly imagine. Whether it is a loaf of bread or a kind word, you never know how significant it could be to them in that moment.
  • Make your helping count.
  • Not all types of giving have the same effects on us. If giving your time and energy to someone exhausts you more than it uplifts you because they are taking advantage of your kindness, perhaps find someone else to offer your help to. Helping others is more effective when you can see the impact that your actions have.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Being grateful for what you have and the people who help you can be just as rewarding as the act of helping others. Expressing gratitude can be a prosocial act too. When others take time to do something nice for you, making them feel appreciated can help build your relationship with them and make your life more meaningful, as well as theirs.


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Written by Saudika Hendricks.

Edited by Lize-Mari.

Ideation by Joy Jackson.