Thank You, Masked Man
I had the opportunity to help someone today. I feel some shame in writing about this not because I’m ashamed of doing what I did, but because I believe making such acts a public event cheapens the act itself. I believe receiving undue praise for being a regular, decent person can lead to expectations of praise and reward. A slippery slope if there ever was one. Not everyone’s an ultra-altruistic superhero ready to lay down their lives on a daily basis save the world out of the sheer goodness of their hearts… and even those are susceptible to corruption. A true altruistic act requires no dog and pony show. No medals. No press conference… And no expectation of thanks.
See, “Thank you, Masked Man“, by Lenny Bruce if you have not. I warn you it’s crass and more than a bit homophobic. Not something I condone but it is, after all, Lenny Bruce. The sentiment’s there: once you start looking for gratitude you start to have expectations of just what that should entail. Best to not start at all.
I saw a woman stuck in a broken-down car at one of the busiest intersections in town during morning rush. For those of you familiar with Des Moines I was by the giant A&E Dairy cow sculptures. As I pulled up next to the disabled vehicle I saw her: Visibly sobbing and looking very afraid. On her cell phone frantically trying to call someone for help as angry morning commuters struggled to make their way around her. Everyone was in a hurry. Too busy. Busy getting to work. Busy with their own lives. Being busy is no sin. We all are pretty busy all the time. At least most of the people I know are. But there she was: Another person struggling and I realized I couldn’t pass her by and feel OK about myself. I found a place to park and ran back. Asked her about her condition and the situation with the car. It was completely without power. She was at a loss. Still in tears. I told her it was going to be alright and then told her my plan. She braked & steered and I pushed. Around a corner, down the street and into a parking lot we went together. Luckily there’d been a break in the traffic on the adjoining street and we were able to cross without blocking too many folks *. In the end she got a call from a friend who would come to get her and traffic was flowing happily. All was right with the world again. I checked to make sure she was good and headed to work. The day seemed a little sunnier than it had and I’d considered leaving it at that. Then I got to thinking there was a parallel with what we see happening all around us. People living in fear of lack. People afraid that if they took time to help or deviated from their planned course that they would somehow miss out or that the cost to themselves would be too great. People looking to get (or stay) ahead of others. The greater cost is to ourselves when we pass people by.
I don’t tell this story to illustrate what a good person I am. I’m not. I don’t expect or want any accolades for being a human being. I will delete any and all comments praising my actions, etc. I’m not looking for thanks. I DO want to set an example in my life and for others. I hope that every person who watched the two of us move that car by ourselves feels a little twinge of guilt when they think back on it. That maybe they’ll feel slightly diminished that some average guy in a less-than-average Honda got out and helped when they didn’t think to. That maybe the next time they see someone in need… in distress they’ll think about that and instead rush offer their hand first. To work together to help solve problems instead of making sure they “get theirs”.
This is how we make our land… our world great. This is how we combat hate. This is how we extinguish fear. This is how we come together. This is how we raise ourselves up.
We have a world full of people in need. We can, in small ways, each and every one of us make a difference every day right here in our own back yard. Today is your day.
Be excellent to each other.
* I’m really glad I haven’t been skipping leg day lately and I’m seriously considering upping my cardio game. When did compact cars get so heavy??