On my morning walks, I often pass a homeless man. He sleeps in a bench near the main drag, covered by a comforter with his belongings alongside him. After passing him a few times, I decided I had to give him something. It’s getting colder, and he looked so lonely there on that bench. So one morning, I wrapped up some apple cake, along with a $5 bill, and placed it in front of him while he slept. This felt so AMAZING. I pictured him waking up, seeing the cake (and the money) and thinking.
“What a wonderful morning! What amazing person left me this delicious cake AND money?”
I felt so high on myself until I walked past the same spot a day later. There sat the apple cake–waterlogged from rain, spilling it’s contents on the sidewalk.
I wish I could tell you I didn’t feel a flash of annoyance. I hate throwing away food, and that cake is DELICIOUS! I thought about it the rest of the morning, fuming slightly. By the time my walk ended, I realized where I went wrong. I assumed a thank you would be the proper reward for my behavior. But a key point of altruism is a selfless approach. Easier said than done? Maybe so, but here are my take-aways.
1. It’s not about you.
Even though sometimes might FEEL personal, 9 times of out 10, a person’s reaction is based on a variety of factors that have nothing to do with you. Notice I wasn’t annoyed the homeless man took the money. The rejection of the cake stung in a unique way. But let’s brainstorm a few reasons why it went uneaten. What if the man was diabetic? What if he hates sweets? What if the cake got out in the rain and was unedible? I have no way of knowing, and further, it really doesn’t matter if the below is true.
2. Altruism is the reward.
To be able to act selflessly with the goal of improving the lives of people around you takes you away from your own worldly concerns. It’s a lesson woven throughout the Bible and worth repeating here. The gift you give in your time, resources, and even your attention is the currency that God deposited in your bank account. To be able to offer that up brings you in alignment with God’s purpose for your life. You tell me–what better reward is there?
3. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
It’s like working out, the more you work the muscle, the bigger it grows. Giving selflessly as part of your daily routine enables you to get better at doing it. The cycle continues. You give, you give, you give, feeling the glow and sense of purpose from the spirit inside you. The stronger this link, the less important your ego is. You can live with purpose, and gain the satisfaction that comes with a sense of belonging. I gain more when I give. There is no “thank you” that can match that type of awareness.
When’s the last time you gave of yourself? Were you able to put thoughts of ego aside? Tell me in the comments.