The Best Kind of Giving: How to Help People Help Themselves This Holiday Season

The Best Kind of Giving: How to Help People Help Themselves This Holiday Season

4 min read
Mark Ferguson

Mark Ferguson has been a real estate investor and real estate agent/broker since 2002. He has flipped over 165 homes in that time, including more than 70 in the last three years.

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Mark owns more than 20 rental properties that include single family homes, as well as commercial properties like a 68,000-square-foot strip mall. Mark has sold more than 1,000 homes as a real estate agent and is the owner/managing broker of Blue Steel Real Estate in Greeley, Colorado. Mark started the InvestFourMore blog and website in 2013, which has hundreds of articles on real estate.

Mark has written six paperback books on real estate, as well. The InvestFourMore YouTube channel has over 38,000 subscribers, the InvestFourMore Facebook page has more than 70,000 likes, and the InvestFourMore Instagram page has more than 11,000 likes. Mark is constantly sharing his insights, case studies, and interesting things that happen to real estate investors on both his blog and well-known sites like Forbes.

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This recent holiday season, my wife and I have been trying to ramp up in our giving. She has tried to find a couple of families we could sponsor in the area who don’t have money and cannot afford Christmas. In our efforts so far, we have run into a lot of people trying to cheat the system or pretend they need help when really they need to change their thinking. We have run into a mom and dad who were likely on some type of drugs while taking care of their one and two-year old. A family of seven living in a hotel room who were incredibly grateful but were making many poor choices that kept them in that position.

How Can You Really Help People?

My wife bought many presents for the children of these families and gave away some of our kids’ toys as well. We are trying to teach our kids to help others in need at an early age and let them know they are very lucky. Even though we are giving presents to the children, I don’t think our actions did a thing to change the lives of the adults. It was almost like both families wanted us to leave as quickly as possible so they could get their presents.

I have been trying to think of ways to motivate people and help them change their lives, but I have had no epiphanies. I thought about giving them motivational books or CDs, but those do nothing to help people if they are not willing to help themselves. My wife mentioned the movie: The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith and how she wished the people she was helping were like the character in that movie who risked everything to make a better life for his son. Ironically, last night we caught the last half of the movie on television before we went to bed.

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The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness is almost ten years old now, but is still an amazing movie. If it doesn’t make you cry, you probably are not human. The basic premise is that Will Smith is a single father with a five-year old son in San Francisco in the 1980’s. He has no job and no money, but he is smart and wants to be a stock broker. He manages to get an internship at a huge company as a middle aged man when everyone else is straight out of college. During the course of the internship, he loses his hotel room, lives in a shelter and sleeps on the subway, all the time with his son. He doesn’t get paid for the internship, but he makes a little money selling medical scanners on the side.

The character doesn’t sleep, barely eats, but he makes sure his son is taken care of, and he works his butt off to make something of his life. In the end he gets the internship, which is where the movie ends, but this was also a true story. The character goes on to start his own company and becomes a millionaire.

How Can This Story Help People?

This movie is all about chasing a dream and risking everything to make your life better. Many of us are in a position where we do not have to risk everything or live in a shelter to chase our dreams. That may be a good or bad thing; sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to see a huge change and motivate someone to go after what they really want. If you live in comfort your entire life, you may never have the motivation to go for what would really make you happy in life.

I think this movie got to me so much, not just because of the five-year old living on the streets with his father, but because his father was willing to do so much — to do anything to make his life better. It is so rare to see that motivation in people at any level, and it bothers me that so many people float through life without trying.

Can This Movie Help People Get Motivated?

My thoughts are that a movie that shows someone work so hard and risk so much may motivate those who do nothing to help themselves. Would a copy of this movie move people to change their lives, or would they simply look at it as a one in a million story that is impossible for them? I would hope it might change a few people, but in the end, most would not take the time to watch it or would not get the message.

Even so… helping one person still makes a difference.

I may sound down and depressed about the whole helping people situation, but the truth is, I am very lucky, and it is my obligation to help others if I can. I am helping out another family in California through a company I work with, and I am going to send a copy of the movie in the package we have put together. Maybe it will help somebody change their life, and if you can help just one person, then the effort that goes wasted on others is all worth it.

Related: 6 Reasons Landlords Should Thank Their Tenants This Holiday Season

What Will the Future Hold?

I am not trying to sound like a great person because I am helping these families. The truth is, I have not done nearly as much as I could in the past, and I have a lot to make up for. The more I help others and the more I give, the more I realize it is not money that helps people, but the thought and time expended.

Throwing money at people who don’t have much is a nice way to help someone in the short-term. To really help people in the long-term, you have to change the way they think. The hard part is figuring out what will help people change and make them realize they are capable of much more than they believe — maybe through a book, maybe through a movie or maybe through nothing. But if you don’t try to help, you will never know if you could change someone’s life.

What are you doing to help this holiday season, and what ideas do you have to change someone’s life, not just provide them short-term comfort?  

Let’s help each other do good this holiday season with some great tips in the comments section below!