I grew up in a rural community where giving and sharing came with the territory - so its just part of who I am. My mother always encouraged me to "put myself in others' shoes" and I've just always loved doing something to delight someone else. In my work I meet more and more people who want to give with some intimacy, to get to know the cause, the people involved directly - not just drop a few dollars anonymously in a bucket on a street corner.
I constantly meet people who are selfless and kind. Kindness is probably the virtue I hold above all others. You can't be kind without really thinking about someone's circumstances and needs and this is what allows us to connect, this is what creates a sense of community. A few years ago I met an amazing young mum with a wonderful child who has a life-threatening illness. It's an understatement to say that this mum's journey isn't easy - but she always finds the energy for helping other parents like her. She inspires me constantly.
Givers receive what's known as the "helper's high". Not only does it feel good, there are studies done on the increase in serotonin levels and positive impacts on the immune system that go along with giving. Donors often guiltily confess about how good it makes them feel, what fun it is.
We're living in an era of unprecedented wealth. While this is not uniformly shared by all, many of us have much more than we need or probably ever dreamt of. But having "things" doesn't necessarily make us happy. From where I sit, I see an increasing number of people searching for ways to become more than consumers - they want to be citizens, to be connected to something bigger than themselves. I'm lucky to be able to help them to find ways to connect with and support people in their own community who would benefit from their help.
We are more connected than ever, thanks to technology and there are huge benefits from this. But this often doesn't create the genuine joy of sharing an experience. We're seeing a rise of 'collective giving' where people get together regularly, pitch in a modest amount of money and share the joy of giving the whole larger sum to a cause they've discussed, researched and collectively chosen. It's hugely rewarding. The great thing about modern philanthropy is that making a big impact is not just for the very wealthy, but is something we can all get involved in.
Kiwis are very generous. We give constantly in many different ways - our time, acts of kindness, through our school communities, at fundraisers. We give in big and small amounts. Some people give regularly, some give once and give big. What we have in common is the ability to empathise and optimism - a desire to make a positive impact in someone's life and a belief that you can.
If I won millions in Lotto this weekend I'd pay off my mortgage and buy a beach house I could share with my whole family. After that I'd sit down and put some thought into how I could gift some of those Lotto millions to help others who haven't had all the opportunities I've had. Creating an endowment - the gift that keeps on giving long after I'm gone is probably what I'd do.
The greatest myth about Auckland as a community? There is considerable wealth in Auckland - people who have been served well by the city and its opportunities. But it's a myth that those people are selfish, that they lack empathy with those less fortunate. I constantly encounter people who want all Aucklanders to live a good life in this city. They're looking for a way to change things, to make a difference.
The material thing I most like for Christmas is one of those spiral making gadgets so I can make courgette spaghetti. I have a large garden and an abundance of courgettes over summer.
Money can buy you happiness - if you give it away.