A most revealing discovery was made a few years ago, Archeologists who were digging up a site in Shanidar Cave in Iraqi Kurdistan found human bones dating to the Neanderthal age (45000 to 70000 years ago). Of the 10 skeletons dug up, they found one skeleton who could have been 50 at the time of death, His bones indicated he had suffered from multiple disabilities including a withered arm and partial blindness. At a time where only the survival of the fittest was ensured, how did this man reach a ripe old age of 50 (old age as per palaeolithic standards) despite his disabilities? The answer is that he was cared for by his group, which allowed him to live long.
This discovery proves the existence of a community structure beyond doubt, and also the proof of community service. From caring to one’s own family or group, humans evolved to caring for members of society not related to them in any way. Community service and philanthropy became pillars of civilised society.
Social work has only just become a career option around the early 19th century. According to Wikipedia Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their resources and those of the community to resolve problems.
We are currently living at the peak of capitalist civilisation. More has come to mean better. Being selfish is a means of ensuring our own survival and comfort. It was long thought that as babies we are born selfish and animalistic, and morals need to be taught to us by our parents and elders of society. But a very interesting experiment conducted by the researchers at Yale University's Infant Cognition Center, also known as "The Baby Lab," revealed that babies even as young as 3 months old can tell good from evil. What this reveals to us is that we are originally hard-wired to do good. The conclusion of this experiment sounds Utopian but being philanthropic can be a very self-gratifying act.
The gratification comes at various levels, mental, physical and spiritual Have you ever been involved in any form of community service or given wholeheartedly to any charity? Do you remember the hearty wave of accomplishment and happiness that you felt? It was a high like no other. It may have seemed that the sun shone a spotlight on you and that some angel somewhere noted your name in the book of good deeds. In reality, it was a chemical surge that swept your body.
When we engage in social work we are activating the brain to release the key happiness-inducing hormones, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin. The term coined by neuroscientists is the Happiness Trifecta: Helping others triggers a release of oxytocin, which has the effect of boosting your mood and counteracts the effects of cortisol (the dreaded stress hormone). Interestingly, the higher your levels of oxytocin, the more you want to help others. When oxytocin is boosted, so are serotonin and dopamine. These hormones affect the smooth functioning of the various organs of the body and in general, their secretion is essential for the physical body to survive in an optimum healthy state. Along with gratification of the body, there is a spiritual benefit to altruism which cannot be denied, for denying it would mean denying the presence of a soul.
Almost all religions of the world propound community service and encourage charity as a way to be closer to the creator of the universal power, All major and minor religions have religious texts citing such behaviour as pleasing to God, Some religions offer a reward in the afterlife for acts of charity. Some cite the law of karma, (whatever you do will come back compounded to you). Spiritualists propound that we are essentially beings of light and interconnected with each other on the spiritual plane. Helping another is helping the whole, the helper included, Whether a person is religious, spiritual, atheist or Agnostic, if he has walked this earth long enough to develop his thinking faculty, without doubt, his subconscious mind has accumulated enough experience that associate happiness and good feeling with charity and community service. Whether or not you subscribe to any of these beliefs the wonderful feeling experienced after committing an unselfish act of charity cannot be refuted. Whether you call it a hit of hormones or the sound of the angels singing your glory, you cannot deny that doing good benefits not only the receiver of such an act but the giver too.