Watch CBS News

5 Extraordinary Stories About Giving

september 11 2001 world trade center voliunteer
(credit: Shutterstock)

In a world where fear and hatred sometimes seem to dominate, giving of oneself can seem like an extraordinary act of courage. Those willing to put themselves on the front lines of doing good understand that generosity of spirit, and the desire to help others, elevates us. Giving creates an opening for hope to shine through. It stands up to fear and laughs in the face of hatred. It brings joy, not only to the giver and recipient, but to the world entire. It reminds us that small acts of giving add up, creating peace and caring for all. Being extraordinary doesn't require riches, it simply requires a desire to give, as these stories demonstrate.


The Inheritance of St. Nick
You may have thought Santa Claus was a fictional character, epitomized by jolly ho-ho-ho's, a filled cookie plate and maxed-out credit cards. Old St. Nick may best be known today for his jovial persona and sleigh-riding antics, but Saint Nicholas was in fact a real person, immortalized by his good deeds way after his difficult life on earth ended. Born wealthy in third century Greece, Nicholas was orphaned as a small child during a horrific epidemic. In keeping with his parental and Christian teachings, this small, forlorn boy found strength and inner peace by giving away his entire inheritance to those less fortunate than himself. Nicholas later became a Bishop, well known for the delight he found in children, as well as his generous spirit. He spent much of his life impoverished and imprisoned along with other Christian leaders, but his legacy of generosity, kindness and simple joy has outlived him for centuries.
A Place of Refuge after Terror Struck
New York and the rest of the compassionate world lived in a state of shock after the horrific attacks of 9/11. Thousands of weary, dusty and tired volunteers, first responders and recovery workers returned to Ground Zero day in and day out, following an impulse to help no matter what was needed. Answering the call to soothe and care for these crews of emotionally wrung-out, exhausted men and women were the staff and volunteers of nearby Saint Paul's Chapel, who worked round-the-clock, giving of themselves by feeding and caring for those working in the pit for eight long months. Doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists and mental health professionals, as well as individuals simply doing what they could to lend a hand, gave of their time, skills and compassion, showing the world what New Yorkers are made of.
The Gift of Life after Tragic Death
Not yet even 18 years old, Anne Marie Pauletta was an avid student, hard worker and “Law and Order” fan when she died, tragically, unexpectedly and way too soon. Pauletta's commitment to becoming an organ donor had been sparked by an episode of her favorite show. Unable to register as a donor due to her young age, she communicated her intent to her mom, Jacqueline, not knowing how soon these courageous and selfless wishes would come to pass. Because of Anne Marie and Jacqueline's astonishing generosity, a young woman with cystic fibrosis, a registered nurse, a single mom and four other grateful individuals were given the precious gift of life and a long future without illness.
Paying It Forward
Anyone who has ever been embarrassed or left stranded by a lack of funds can relate to the story a young man who called himself Andy posted on Reddit. Unable to pay an unexpected, yet mandatory baggage fee at the airport, a visibly distraught Andy took a few moments away from the check-in counter to figure out next steps. Upon his return, Andy found that his baggage fee had been paid and this note was left waiting for him: “Hey, I heard them say your card was declined. I know how it feels. Your bag fee's on me. Just pay it forward the next time you get a chance. Have a safe flight.” Overcome with emotion and gratitude, yet unable to thank the anonymous giver, Andy posted his thanks on social media. His simple thank you to the giver was met with hundreds of stories posted about paying it forward moments, an escalation of hope, and an army of individuals looking for a chance to make someone else's day better.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Areas of Pennsylvania hard hit by receding industry and the recession may seem particularly bleak this time of year, but the Needy Family Fund is striving to change that. Last year the Fund, started as a collaboration between the local Salvation Army, Susquehanna Bank, The Daily Item and local radio stations, was overwhelmed with applications for assistance but also with donations from individuals hoping to help neighbors they knew and neighbors they didn't. Donations were used to buy toys, pay utility bills and buy food. This year, the number of applications has almost doubled and once again, local residents and other generous people are answering the call.


Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.