Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti, and the Act of Giving

My mom used to tell me of the story of a man who did a terribly unselfish act for the benefit of a stranger. When asked why he would do such a thing, he replied that he was not motivated to act to give help to another, but because it made him feel better about himself. Well, at least that is the way I remember the story.

I understood the tale to tell us, in a positive way, that being generous of spirit can be viewed at it's core as an act of selfishness. It is making one feel better about oneself that truly stimulates the action.

What do you think?

PS - My son just read this post and reminded me of an incident that occurred in my life 40 years ago.

One afternoon, while I was living at home and still in high school, I received a call from a friend asking if I could travel from New Jersey into New York City to the car impound. His car had been towed and he did not have the money necessary to pay the fine and towing charges.

When I arrived, there was a long line of people waiting to pay the necessary costs and retrieve their vehicles. A young black woman and her child were there, clearly distressed. Upon inquiring, I was told she needed $10 more or she couldn't get her car back. I handed the woman the money and received her thanks. She asked for my address and promised to repay me as soon as she could.

That night I told my parents what had transpired. My mom praised me for my kindness, but advised me not to expect to ever see the return of the funds I had given out.

The following week I received a letter in the mail with $10 inside. That bill has remained in my possession for 40 years and serves as a constant reminder to me of all that I received by one simple act of giving.


Jack said...

I hope and pray that some of the millions of dollars that generous and caring people throughout the world are giving to Haiti gets to those who are suffering the most from this tragic event.

Nancy said...

Being part of a family that frequently asks for donations for various causes, I choose to view acts of kindness and generosity at face value and with gratitude. Perhaps some people run on guilt, some on their big beautiful hearts and others out of what you described as at the core,an act of selfishness. I prefer to appreciate kindness and not analyze its source. I guess I'm just a black and white kind of gal on this subject.

The story Richie reminded you of is just classic Robert behavior. I take it at face value. Who care why you did it. You were wonderful -- that's all!

Robert said...

Thanks for your kind words about me, and about those who give to causes that you support.

It is your courage and drive, in the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges, that serves as a constant reminder to me of the strength of the human spirit.