Apr 29, 2009

senseless acts of kindness

I met a man the other day.
A man I will most likely never see again. Which is fine. Nice as he was, its not so much the man, as what the man did.
Truth be told he wasn't even there for me. He was there for my friend. When she needed him. Though she barely knew him.
But he wasn't there by happenstance.
He was there, specifically, for her, not because she needed him to be, but because he needed to be there for her.

To be clear, the man did a very nice thing.

That is it, ofcourse. Nice.
He didn't save her life or pay her mortgage or cure her children of some rare disease.
He brought her a gift and he said happy birthday and he went very out of his way to do it even though he barely knew her, because he hoped, when he did it she would smile. And she did.
He told us he selfishly hoped he would see her smile. That was why he did it. He wanted to see that.

I've been thinking about this alot. I can't help myself. The experience has made me...rather sad? Or is it moved? Is that what I'm feeling?
Because I'm not quite sure.
I don't know how to describe the emotion.
But it feels big. It opens me. Like a plant in bloom I feel exposed, ripe.
Maybe it draws attention to the amount of empty interactions, we, as close friends and drinking buddies have with eachother.
Maybe it makes note of all the effort we put into the unmoving of things in our universe. All the time we scrub at a counter trying to get it clean or all the times we check our pocket for our keys. I don't know.
Maybe, conversely, it makes me aware of how capable each of us is of doing something extraordinary by doing something ordinary but unexpected. Maybe it makes me wish that we all thought in terms of how others emotions affect our own. How our own selfish need can give birth to a seemingly selfless act. Maybe it makes me explore the limitless potential of empathy, if left on tap.

So often we are told to curb our yearnings, lest we engage in brutal or selfish or gluttonous acts. So often we are led to believe that what we want is a manifestation of ego left unchecked, an open door to excessive consumption and selfish cruelty.
What if it is quite the opposite. What if in our deepest hearts, our greatest urges propel us to do simple acts, to irrationally wish small gifts of happiness on others, to reach out and connect on a basis of our coomonalities, be it pain, our sorrow, or potential joy?

But mostly I don't know.
So I'm writing about it.


Jezebel said...

Thank you. Because I felt changed by meeting him, because the idea that a person would go so far out of his way in the hope... the self-admittedly selfish hope... of making another person smile, this made me feel good about people in a way I have not felt good for quite some time. It was a beautiful act of selfishness. Thank you for writing about it.

Mischief Maker said...

And also I really like this! I worry very much about the selfish motivations behind my actions. This was a good read.