Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Good Deeds

I'm feeling cheerful this morning, and I have to attribute my mood to my (very minor) good deed.

Let me backtrack a bit. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, at one point we had twenty people, five dogs, and three cats in my brother's house. My niece commented - after about the seventh time the dogs went running through the room - about how many animals were in the house.

After a moment, I replied "I count twenty-eight animals".

She gave me a weird look.

"What? We're not animals?" I asked. Of course we are animals.

Mark Twain once said "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to". My response to Mark is "Actually, Man is the only animal that can choke on its own vomit. Or needs to".

Well, no seriously, Man is the only animal that looks for a difference between himself and other animals.

I would have liked to have said that Man is the only animal that commits altruistic acts, but that's not true. Lots of other animals do that as well. But I would like to think that we do it a little more often, if only to each other, but sometimes to other animals, and these acts are what elevate us just a little bit above other animals. But then we blow all those points with all sorts of acts of cruelty.

In any case, I try to do one good deed a day if can. Even if its just a little thing. Now, I don't all the courteous things we do in polite society as a good deed. It has to be something that inconveniences me in some way. That is, after all the defining quality of altruism: sacrifice.

(I know Ayn Rand consider altruism a secular sin, but she was just creepy, so eff her).

Anyway, I get ready for work, and my next door neighbor is standing next to his car. Not that this matters, but my next door neighbor is named Aaron, and his car is a giant gold Lincoln Continental. The car is so big and pimped out that it looks like it should have a nuclear reactor under the hood, and perhaps it does.

Well, Aaron cannot get his driver's side back door to close and lock. We examine the mechanism. I figure because of the cold, it's frozen somehow, so I spray it down with WD-40. No luck. After about five minutes of this, I give up. I don't what's wrong with it. Aaron is quite frustrated, and as a result cannot think at all.

"What am I gonna do? I can't drive it with the door swinging open".

After staring at the door for a minute, I notice the seat belt.

"Hey, let's loop the seatbelt through the inside door handle. That will keep it closed for you to get it to a garage for them to look at it".

He stares at me for two seconds, and says "That's very clever!"

We do so, and he is on his way.

So, am I cheerful because I helped him out, or I got to solve a problem, or I got a compliment?

I guess all three.


  1. I consider being told I am clever to be the highest form of compliment. Unfortunately, I am usually telling other people how clever they are instead of being told how clever I am. But one good deed a day. Good on you. If everybody did that, OMG, what a different world this would be. And I think animals are way more altruistic than humans. I read just the other day that squirrels will adopt babies in another nest if they notice the parents are missing.

    1. The operative phrase, Ellen, was "try to". I don't manage a good deed a day most days. And I don't count my job as an instructor. I'm paid to be helpful.