All right, we all know that doing a “selfless” act each day, and then blogging about it negates the whole “selfless” thing, we get it, but bear with us. Selfless or not, we were able to do a bit of good that we otherwise may not have done.
I went into this week with a fifty-dollar limit, not because I’m cheap, but because tossing around money seemed like the easy way, and if I’m going to challenge myself, it should be a challenge.
Let me offer a little background on my point of view coming into this challenge. This story happens to be about me (kind of). When my mom heard that she was pregnant with me she lost her shit, I was an “unexpected gift” as she would later let me know when I first asked her if I was an accident. Unexpected gift is an affectionate oversimplification of what was actually going on. When she found out she was “unexpectedly gifted” her first response was to drive to a church and cry to her favorite nun (Sister Regina) for hours. Why all the tears, you ask? Well let’s go deeper. My parents had two kids, one was five, and the other was just barely a year old. They had no money, and had just moved into a house they couldn’t afford, on a land contract that stipulated if they missed one payment they would be evicted and the house would be returned to the previous owner1. My mom was in nursing school and my dad was recovering from a brain aneurysm that caused a stroke, which in turn left him paralyzed. He was learning to speak again, and write again, and walk again, and hopefully one day be a father again. It was as if my mom was raising three kids already, with no job, all while attending nursing school at night. Surprise!!! Unexpected gift!! FUCK! Now, on top of everything, she gets to keep doing all this and have a human being inside of her, growing, kicking, and playing Plinko on her hormones and emotions. Crying for hours on a nun’s lap seems to be the appropriate response to such “great” news!
So what does this have to do with being “selfless”? That moment in the church became an important lesson for my mom and she passed it down to me the moment I asked her if I was an accident.
My Mom was very close to Sister Regina, and the Priest, Father Curtain. They knew what she had on her plate, and opened their doors and arms to her and my family when we were in such great need. So the lesson is this…
When my mom went into Saint Francis losing her shit about having a baby at a time when there was no time or money for a baby, she got two different reactions. Father Curtain raided the churches pantry for food, and baby clothes, and anything else that may be able to help us out, meanwhile Sister Regina just sat with my mom, and held her and cried with her, and listened to her. In the end my mom needed both. The difference Between Curtain and Regina was that one was doing all he could for my mom, while the other was being all she could for my mom. In the end both are important, but (to me) it seems much more difficult to be for someone than to do for someone. So if I’m going to do for someone it won’t be much since I am limiting myself to fifty-dollars! Hopefully this limitation will push me to try and be more than do.
Monday: I had a horrible sleep Sunday night; in fact it may be more accurate to say I didn’t sleep Sunday night. I was up and out of bed by 5:30am at school by 6:30am and ready for my 1st class by 8am, the point to this small intro is that I was tired as fuck, and ready for bed by noon. I had planned to pay for someone’s bill at Starbucks to fulfill my “selfless” act for the day, but something better came along. My good friend was having a Monday night birthday party, and I was ready to opt out of that shindig by 10am, I just wanted a bed, I didn’t care which or who’s bed, I just needed sleep. She would understand if I couldn’t make it right? Of course she would, she’s a friend, but this was not the day for that. Sleep be damned! I was invited to share in my bud’s birthday and that would be “selfless” act #1 (Be with my friend despite the loud and continuous call from Rip Van Winkle (is that a sleep reference, it’s supposed to be a sleep reference?)). The dinner was amazing, I pulled my shit together and acted as though I wasn’t coming off 0 hours of sleep in almost 24hrs. I even got the chance to buy her dinner (“selfless” act #1a). In the end I am so happy I went, it was a fantastic evening surrounded by friends, and it made the moment I finally hit the pillow that much better!
Tuesday: I was still in recovery mode from lack of sleep, I know I’m such a lightweight when it comes to sleep. No lie if I take 1 Nyquil I’m out for a week. I feel like I’m a narcoleptic with insomnia…I digress! Recently I donated a bunch of clothes to the Goodwill, basically stuff I was never going to wear again. Well I went back through my clothes and decided to donate some clothes that I actually liked. Not exactly saving the world, but some lucky person is going to be walking around in a brand new Detroit Pistons t-shirt, perhaps an unworn Justin Verlander replica jersey, or the most comfortable Wayne State University hoodie anyone could ever imagine. Donating high rotation apparel… “Selfless” act #2. (I slipped a $10 visa gift card into the back pocket of a pair of jeans I donated as well, “selfless” act #2a.)
Wednesday: So I might as well introduce you to my very best friend in the whole world, she is a hairy Irish girl covered in black freckles. She’s kind of needy, and doesn’t talk much, but I love her with all my heart. She’s my border collie, and her name is Pepper. Today my “selfless” act would be all about her. I took a ½ day at school so I could take her to her favorite walking trail before going back for an evening meeting. We have a pretty routine walk that we take everyday, and she enjoys it, but her favorite thing in the world is to walk among the trees (SO MANY SMELLS). So I took her for a hike in the woods, and she loved it… “selfless” act #3 was treating my bud to her favorite thing. Thinking that it wasn’t all that selfless, as I also benefited greatly from this walk, I decided to be extra kind and engaging to fellow hikers. My normal walking disposition is somewhere between annoyed forced congeniality and back off you don’t know me2. Not today though, today I was all smiles, and everyone was my friend. (“selfless” act #3a)
Thursday: I am SO long winded, my goal is to keep my posts closer to one thousand words rather than two thousand words, and it’s Thursday and I’m already closing in on fifteen hundred words, and here I am writing about word count when I should be writing about my “selfless” act. Today was the closest I came to a true selfless act (I even removed the quotations from “selfless”). Again, I was going to pay for someone else at a Starbucks or something, but then the act just presented itself, I don’t know if it’s my new facial disposition (acquired from yesterday’s walk) or if it was just good/bad timing, but a handicap stranger in an electric wheelchair came up to me while I was visiting with a friend and said… “Excuse me, can you help me go to the bathroom” WHAT!!! Fuck yeah I’ll help you, this is selfless act week, and is there something more selfless than lifting a disabled stranger up and setting him on the toilet, waiting for him to finish, helping him pull his pants up, and setting him back in the chair? Of course there is, but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for this week! (#4)
Friday: In the name of brevity, I can keep this one short…I gave a thirty-dollar tip on a ten-dollar order at Jimmy Johns! (#5)
Saturday: Today was a mismatch kind of day, I spent some time picking up litter on a trail near my house, bought a candy bar for a woman who helped me check out at the grocery store, and then collected all the carts in the grocery store parking lot. I think the kid who normally collects them was kind of pissed that I was doing it, because he kept racing me to stray carts, trying to collect them before I could…I did manage at least twenty carts before he noticed me. I’m not sure if he was trying to prevent me from doing a “selfless” act like some kind of Screwtape3, of if he was supposed to prevent people from helping? Either way, racing a teenager around a grocery parking lot trying to collect grocery carts before he could was the highlight of my week, even better than helping a stranger take a shit. (#6, #6a, #6b)
Sunday: I need something selfless to do, I’m not religious (despite my Mom’s coming to God moment after the realization of her “unexpected gift”), but no sooner than I asked, “What can I do today?” a tree cracked into the road blocking one lane of traffic. Was this God’s way of calling me to action? Of course not, there were 40 mph winds the day before, and trees crack, but the timing was nearly perfect, I’ll call it an unexpected gift. Admittedly if this were any other day I would have just drove around it, and let the city handle it, but this isn’t just any other day, this is the last day of the “Selfless” Act challenge, and so I knew exactly what I had to do. I went home and grabbed my cordless saw and backup battery, drove back and went to work. (“selfless” act #7) When people noticed what I was doing others stopped to help, I was kind of happy, but also a little sad, this was my “selfless” act, and now they were kind of taking it away from me, but I thought, “I’m just going to let these asshole Samaritans help” (“selfless” act #7a – I realize letting other people help me seems like the opposite of a selfless act, but in this case it wasn’t, I let strangers work on my “selfless” act with me and that is pretty selfless indeed. I understand how fucked up this sounds, so let’s just move on). We cut up the tree, moved it out of the road, and traffic was moving at full speed once again.
The Take: I like to think of myself as a nice person, clearly there is room for improvement, and while in reality I wouldn’t have done nearly any of the “selfless” acts I did this week if it wasn’t for the challenge, there are still some things I would have done. What I realized is that I do my best to be there for those in need the moment they ask, my problem is that I wait to be asked. So, the most important thing I can take from this week is that I shouldn’t always wait to be asked; sometimes being a nice person requires taking the lead. I’m not sure what my next truly “selfless” act will be, but I’ll keep the batteries charged just in case the winds pick up again.
- On a side when my parents made the final payment on our house, the previous owner committed suicide. He had accumulated a massive debt and was banking on a poor family with a pregnant Mother and paraplegic Father to miss at least one payment, thus getting the house back and being able to sell it again. When they gave him the last payment he realized that he had no means by which to payoff his debt, and figured the end of a rope was a better alternative than bad credit? He left his disabled wife to fend for herself until she died alone, several years later. If this weren’t a post about being selfless I may suggest that this guy was the epitome of a pile of shit, luckily for him though this post is about being selfless, so I’ll let you dear reader draw your own conclusions about what kind of pile this particular man is.
- I literally had this song bouncing around in my head as I tried to be nice to people…luckily it’s the week of selfless acts and not a week of selfless thoughts.
- Screwtape was a helper of the devil who tried to prevent nice people from doing good deeds in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.