The other day someone asked me a question that baffled and bewildered me, yet this query that was posed was so simple. They asked: why do I help others if I do not know or owe them anything? I sat quietly for a moment and evaluated this inquisition and the best way to explain the purpose of this lifelong altruism of mine. Truth be told I also contemplated on why we are friends as he was honestly confused by my humanitarian hands. He did not understand why I would not buy myself an unnecessary and unneeded better Bluetooth headset since I had the money.
When I was growing up, my family was lower middle class, although we were a hare’s breadth away from being poor. Our family held onto the title of the lower middle class like it was the last twinkly at a weight watchers meeting. My mother, who was a single parent, worked a full-time job and went to college, so we rode that tightrope between poor and poor-ish for seven years.
We were low-income, but I had no idea what being poor genuinely meant until I met some specific people in high school. I was not afraid to make friends with anyone, including the people that were shunned and socially shamed because of their appearance and clothing. I made good friends with those who were the real impoverished individuals in high school. Freshman through the senior year were the years it was most difficult for a kid to hide the family financial stance. So I had both rich and poor friends though I learned the most about life and the real meaning of friendships from those with the least.
I learned from seeing this downtrodden lifestyle and saw how my friends did not work so that their parents could do so. Most days, they needed to watch their younger siblings because their parents could ill-afford decent childcare. I quickly realized that when we were going to eat fast food, they could not buy food for lunch. I did not want them to feel bad and look needy if I only bought food for them. The solution was to simply pay for the group as to not single out the neediest among us. It felt good to do good for others without making them feel embarrassed or ashamed for not being able to contribute financially. This action was done with no expectations of payback, thus began my altruistic life.
I have seen and experienced some of the worst neighborhoods that Columbus, Ohio, has to offer. I was told that I had to physically see the poverty-stricken communities to comprehend the struggles of the penniless people truly. Walking in these areas and talking with some of the residents, I learned that many put forth a valiant venture to lift themselves out of destitution. This effort tends to reward them with a losing battle, typically moving them one step forward and two steps back. Sadly, they are not afforded the opportunities that I have seen others use to their advantage to raise out of the impoverished lifestyle.
My friend later asked me: if that is the case, then why do you do things for people who are not in need? He saw me order flowers for the community center where I swim and heard that I bought dinner for a group of friends. This question tells me that I should start shopping on eBay to find new choice chums.
There is enough bitterness, hatred, and contempt in this world that truly affects everyone. These negative impacts are not the same for everyone, but it affects everyone none the less. So in my eyes doing good whether they are in need or not are putting a bit of kindness into an otherwise acrimonious world. Giving to the destitute or affluent has a positive impact on the recipient and the altruist alike.
To make the world a little better in my eyes, I give to many charities like soup kitchens and food banks. I have helped supply clothing and furniture for local free stores and given out grocery gift cards to plenty of needy families. I have purchased school supplies for many children and Christmas trees for families in need. I have sent flowers and fruit baskets all over town in an attempt to bring a smile or two. I have even bought many meals for friends both in large groups and one on one. I have been told that my giving is excessive. However, I say that it is not enough as I would like to do more, but my income will only allow me to do so much.
Please do not think that I am braggadocios because that cannot be further from the truth. My mom tells me that I am simply leading by example, and yet I genuinely hope that people are willing to follow suit. I understand that not everyone can afford to do these things, but little acts of kindness make a difference in this bitter filled world. So the next time that you are out at your favorite coffee place, buy a coffee for a stranger or do some other random act of kindness. I guarantee you that it will make them feel good, but it will give you a great feeling as well.
Be the change in the world that you want to see- Gandhi.