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The Samaritan’s Dilemma, Part 3

Is giving ingrained in us?  Do we have to do it?  Just because we know it’s right?

A couple of stories from The Samaritan’s Dilemma: Should Government Help Your Neighbor.  Here, the author Deborah Stone, quotes the “Metropolitan Diary” of the New York Times:

“Ned Helfand was walking past Madison Square Garden recently when a homeless man, holding a cup for contributions, approached him.  Mr. Helfand reached into his pocket, retrieved some change and put it into the cup.  The homeless man then passed a table with two large jars on it and a man exhorting passers-by to donate.  ‘Just one penny to feed the homeless,’ he intoned.  ‘One penny can make a difference.  Can you find it in your heart to give just one penny?’

The homeless man reached into his cup, selected a penny, deposited it in the jar and continued on his way.”  What a sweet example of giving!

The second story is about Nina, a home health care aide who was doing extra off-duty caregiving because she didn’t like what was happening to her patients.  When one of her clients with MS was going to be terminated under a Medicare budget cut, she confided in the author: “I told the guy with MS, ‘Hey, if they cut you off, you won’t go without a bath.”  To the author she said, “If he gets cut off, I don’t know what he’d do,” as if his problem were her problem, too….“It’s not right, it stinks….I told him I’d stop by after work and do it.  They can’t stop you on your own time.  After 3:30, you’re a private citizen.”  And here, I think, Nina is like countless others who are willing to lose their jobs over obligations of care.

Okay, maybe we’re not quite to that point of giving until we bleed–until it affects our family and our lifestyle.  Can we do one thing a day that is entirely for someone else…and he or she remains completely unaware of who has done it?  Some examples that come to my mind: slipping an extra quarter in a car meter, allowing someone to cut in front of you (with a smile), paying a coffee tab for the next customer.

Since this is secret altruism, I can’t tell you what I’m planning for my random act of kindness today.  That would defeat the purpose.

What about you?

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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