Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by The crazy Colombian in the ‘Reflections’ section of his other web site Pass It Forward. We encourage you to visit this web page and learn more about this inspirational project that is changing the world with acts of kindness.
The parable of the hungry little boy
There once was a little boy who lived on the streets of New York and was always hungry. On Monday morning a senior executive from a hedge fund walked past him; The executive had received a free bread-roll with his coffee from the local Starbucks. Since he was on a low-carb diet, he carelessly tossed it away. Luckily for the small boy, the bread-roll landed on his lap (the boy’s, not the executive’s)On this first day the boy had something to eat, and did not go hungry. On Tuesday, a Social Security worker walked past this same little boy. His heart was broken by the sight of a young & vulnerable child on the harsh streets of New York. He decided to stop at the bakery across the road, and used the few coins in his pocket to buy a bread-roll for the boy. On this second day the boy had something to eat, and did not go hungry. On Wednesday a visiting politician from Washington D.C. walked past the boy, and saw a golden opportunity for some positive PR. He took his PR consultant’s lunch box, removed a bread-roll that was in it, and asked him to take a photo of him magnanimously giving the boy some food. On this third day the boy had something to eat, and did not go hungry.
Who was a better giver: The senior executive; the Social Security worker, or the politician? If you’re like most of us, you will say the Social Security worker. In our judgemental eyes, he was the only generous soul; the senior executive was simply careless, and the politician self-serving. Yet truth is they all gave a bread-roll away. To the small boy, all three acts of kindness were equal. At the end of the day, each and every one of them allowed him to avoid hunger in a cold, winter New York day.
In our current society, we often judge others’ acts of generosity on the basis of the giver’s intentions & motivations. We believe that giving must be done with love in our hearts to be worthy of praise. But wouldn’t it be even more admirable if you gave something even when you were not inspired; when you were not feeling generous; even when you simply did not feel like it? We all feel inspired by the person who has nothing yet gives much; in a certain way, that generosity is remarkable, and needs to be praised, if for no other reason than to recognise a selfless and generous spirit we have come across in our day. Yet we must be careful. Simply because giving with little in our pocket and a generous heart is a good thing, does not mean that we should fail to acknowledge any giving that does not come in the company of those admirable traits.
The greatest gift : giving in spite of yourself
We usually give when we are in a good mood, feeling either wealthy or generous. Yet we often feel unworthy to participate in the gift of giving if we feel motivated to do so because it has a positive impact in our taxes; because we feel just a tinge of guilt from our latest excesses; or because someone who we love is watching us and we do not want to be seen as too selfish. It has been said that many volunteers get a strong sense of purpose from donating their time, and that at the end of the day, they are giving not so much because they love others and want to help them; but because they love themselves and feeling useful makes them happy. Should we snub them and their efforts because of it? Or course not! Just remember that to those on the receiving end, your motivation makes very little difference. Next time you feel like you need to be in the right frame of mind before you give to others, get over your moralistic impulses and Just Do It. The person who benefits from your kindness will appreciate it regardless of your motivations!