We live, unfortunately, in a world where many people think of themselves first and others later, if at all.

Caregivers act in just the opposite fashion. They offer their time and energy to helping a loved one, often sacrificing their own well-being. They almost always delay the things they want to provide aid to another.

That’s why Hope Grows offers a respite for caregivers, a chance to restore and take care of themselves. It’s a necessary part of being a caregiver – taking time for yourself.

But even caregivers may not realize the incredible power in what they do, and how acts of selflessness and caregiving can literally change the world.

Caregivers Change Lives

In a recent speech during the graduation ceremony at Harvard University’s Medical School, graduate Rajesh Panjabi spoke about how caregivers can transform the world, creating a fairer, just and healthy society.

Panjabi, who immigrated to the United States as a child from civil war-torn Liberia, grew up in North Carolina. He said many acts of kindness by people in the U.S. opened up a new life for him. He also spoke of a physician’s assistant in Liberia who would travel many miles to dangerous areas to provide care for those in areas affected by an Ebola outbreak.

H asked those in the audience who had at least one person do a selfless act for them that changed their lives.  Everyone raised their hands.

“Selflessness is contagious,” he told his fellow graduates. “Selfless acts give us – caregivers – the power to change the world.”

He urged all his fellow graduates to make selfless acts a part of their lives.

Not Always Aware of Selfless Acts

Caregivers who are caught up in the day-to-day events of doing what they do may not realize the power of their own selfless acts.

While statistics cannot capture the impact of all that a caregiver does, they are illuminating. The National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP estimate that 29 percent of the U.S. population are providing care services for ill, disabled or aging loved ones.

That translates into $375 billion worth of services that are provided through selfless acts of caregivers, far more than then $158 billion spent each year on nursing and home health care.

But that’s just one way to measure the impact. What’s more powerful, but cannot be measured, is how caregiving influences others. When people see others performing selfless acts, they are more inclined to do the same. As Panjabi said, such acts are “contagious.”

Caregiving is one of the most difficult jobs for anyone to take on. Yet the amazing people who do so are the real heroes of the world. Take time to appreciate the impact you are having on the world – you might even be changing it in ways you do not realize.