Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good deeds, karma and chocolate

Earlier today I was out running errands... well, it was more like trudging errands as it is really snowing again here in the northeast. Anywho, I was at the post office, waiting in line to mail off some packages. There was an older woman ahead of me in line and we got to chatting about the weather. She mentioned that she had to mail off something that had to be postmarked today. She hoped she had enough postage on it because in her haste to get to the post office and dealing with the snow, she forgot her pocket book. Her turn arrived and she was in fact 17 cents short of the needed postage. She got a little upset and was trying to figure out what to do- did she have enough time to go home and come back, how late was the last pick up that would still get out today, and so on.

I stepped up and offered to pay the difference. The woman was so grateful and the postal worker was impressed- so much so that she gave me a piece of chocolate for my 'awesome karma points'. I thanked her, mailed off my own packages, paid her difference and for my own stuff, and went on my way, and ate the chocolate- which was quite yummy:)

Why do we do good deeds?

A friend once said that doing something nice for someone else is one of the most selfish acts a person could do, because we do it for how it makes us feel- good. While this is certainly a lovely occasional by-product of a good deed- is it always the motivation? Do I plot out my good deeds by the amount of warm fuzzy feeling I expect in return? Do I only help people if it is guaranteed that they will thank me profusely?

No, not really. The chocolate was unexpected, as was the postal worker's excited reaction.

What if I do good deeds because it just makes sense to me that if I can help in some way, there is no reason not to.

I guess I wonder if the 'why' matters at all. For me it's more of a 'why not'.

Maybe this outlook the result of being the oldest sibling in my family, or from being one of 8 kids where fairness and sharing were pivotal for our group dynamic. Maybe it is from always being a little overly aware of what is going on around me and listening in on conversations around me.

Or maybe it is just a part of who I am.

That said, if the difference had been 17 dollars instead of cents would I have been as likely to step up? I don't know. I'd like to think that I would have, but I am also aware of my budget.

What do you think- why do you do nice things for others? Is there a specific motivation? What about limitations?

1 comment:

  1. I've actually been thinking lately about where compassion comes from. I was thinking that all kids are naturally born compassionate and with an inborn sense of justice, but that seems to wane as innocence gets beat all to hell. And then I couldn't figure out what innocence is...naivete? Not sure. Anyway, why are people good?
    And just tonight a podcast came on from Radiolab about why people are good. You might like it: http://www.radiolab.org/2010/dec/14/