The plumber who restored our faith in humanity

Contagious: Researchers found that giving spurs a ripple effect of generosity.

Does giving make us happier than getting? James Anderson’s simple act of charity has touched a deep chord all over the world. Evidence proves that we are wired to be good, say scientists.

A plumber has received an outpouring of praise and support after going viral for invoicing a 91-year-old woman £0.

James Anderson, who runs a not-for-profit plumbing company in Burnley, UK, recently fixed the boiler of the elderly customer.

But rather than charging the woman, who also has acute leukaemia, the plumber wrote on the invoice that there would be “no charge for this lady under any circumstances” and that the company would “be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible”.

A photo of the bill was originally shared on Facebook by the woman’s daughter, Christine Rowland, before it was shared to Twitter, where it has been liked more than 100,000 times.

However, this is not the first time Anderson has come to the aid of an elderly customer. He founded his company Depher (Disabled & Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Repair) to do just that.

According to Anderson, who started the company in 2017, he wanted to help elderly and disabled people who may be suffering, but are worried about asking for help or are unable to afford the costs.

“There are too many elderly and disabled people suffering in silence,” he told the BBC. “They don’t like asking for help. They don’t want to be a burden.

“We take away the burden, the stigma.”

While the business has a crowdfunding page, the plumber said he recently had to lay off two employees.

But despite accruing £8,000 in debts, Anderson says he will continue offering help to those who need it, free of charge.

Anderson, who is originally from Liverpool, also hopes to be able to expand the business in the future, so that no elderly people have to struggle.

“My hope is to get Depher national, in every city and town,” he said.

On social media, Anderson has been praised as a “hero”.

“The world needs more people like this kind man,” one person wrote.

Another tweeted: “This proves there are still good people in the world.”

In response to the support, which Anderson said has been “absolutely global”, he said the job is a “community effort”.

Does this show that giving makes us happier than getting?

The secret of life?

Unfortunately not, according to some. For all the warm glow that a well-aimed gift can create, nothing beats receiving a diamond ring from a partner or a daisy chain from a grandchild. In fact, being a good receiver of gifts is more important than being a good giver.

But there is substantial scientific research to the contrary, point out scientists. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School found that giving money to someone else lifted people’s happiness more than spending it on themselves. And in his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase the health of people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather be a good giver or a good receiver of gifts?
  2. Is human nature fundamentally good?

Activities

  1. The plumber’s story has inspired millions. Come up with a national advertising slogan that could be used to encourage more acts of generosity on the back of this story.
  2. Write a short story with the title “The Gift”. Use it to explore the many secret and hidden ways that a gift can work.

Some People Say...

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Anne Frank (1929-1945), diarist and holocaust victim

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know the plumber’s beliefs. Perhaps he sums it up best himself when he says, “At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same family living on a rock in space. If we don’t look after each other, it’s a very sad place in which we live.”
What do we not know?
Whether giving truly promotes cooperation and social connection. Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line — sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else. But these are beliefs, not facts.

Word Watch

Not-for-profit
Not-for-profit organisations do not earn profits for their owners. All of the money earned by or donated to a not-for-profit company is used to follow the business’s aims and keeping it running.
Leukaemia
A cancer of the blood or bone marrow. Bone marrow produces blood cells. Leukaemia can happen when there is a problem with the production of blood cells. It usually affects the leukocytes, or white blood cells.
Invoice
A bill or list of items, or work done, showing how much money needs to be paid.
Multiple sclerosis
A condition that can affect the brain, the spinal cord and optic nerves in eyes. It can result in disability.

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