Free Acts of Kindness

There was this vet who wrote a blog post about fixing up a homeless women’s sick dog but then TOTALLY RUINED my emotional voyerism with excessive displays of modesty.

http://dogtorbill.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/she-wasnt-being-rude/

“I don’t take any credit. And I honestly do not write this story to look like some kind of a hero.”

“It’s easy to puff your chest out when you do something difficult. But this wasn’t difficult.”

“Please don’t leave any comments. Like it if you want, and share it.”

Woah – that’s mighty defensive for a kind deed. What was he so worried about? That all of us selfish, self centered people would feel shamed by our indulgent lifestyles to which he wanted to reassure us “Don’t worry! USUALLY I’m just as selfish as you, this was really a small thing – I’ll go back to eating my slave chocolate later tonight.” (Eating slave chocolate is one of my own vices.)

Thing is, we’re all hardened, selfish little creatures at our core – or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, people who are really able to hold others in the same esteem with which they hold themselves are rare, but we’re going to need more people like that to fix the ways that the world is broken. So, what do those of us do who aren’t there yet?

In about ten minutes, I’m going to go walk out in the street and implicitly tell about ten homeless people that their starvation is less important than my coffee. And, what I will feel most for them is contempt, some level of guilt for my own selfishness. Why do they have to be homeless right outside where I live? Why can’t just one morning go by when I can go get my coffee in peace?

On some level, I think my mistake is not that I am selfish, but that I am able to view their wellbeing as separate from my own. Still, despite my logical perception of the problem, I can’t un-belive my separateness. Not yet, anyhow.

Is it right to give a homeless person a dollar? Jury’s still out, but I know I tend to feel better when I give them one. The reasons I tend not to are often social. I will never give money out if I’m with another person because I’m usually worried they will see me as weak (unless it’s one of my very close friends.)

We have a culture which causes us to be less charitable, which causes people like the vet to feel defensive when they open up about the kind things they do. But, what if it was just ok to brag? What if we allowed that?

Then, the exchange would be different. It would be more like,

“I want to give, but I still struggle with wanting to impress people. By listening to me brag about my charity, you help me be more charitable, so thank you.”

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