The other day I read a post by Colin Andray, publisher of A Dogs Life…and mine…and yours. In it, he explored the concept of doing unto others as you would like them to do unto you. It sounds so simple, that I guess I never gave it a lot of thought. When I was growing up, that principle was as cast in stone as was making sure we were home in time for dinner. A diversion from either had it’s consequences. But as I read on, and he probed the difference between like and expect, I began to give it more thought. Specifically, how often are actions taken, words spoken, or gifts given with the express purpose of putting another expectation, called reciprocation, on our shelf, to be recovered at some future date. I am in mind of a time when a get well card was circulating around the office for a peer that was ill. One lady declined to sign it because “she never did anything for me”. So much for charity.
Over the years, in retrospect, I am probably guilty of actions that were not sterling either like buttering up a manager in hopes of gaining favor, or hey, just getting ready for Santa. I know we all have done it. The question is, is it my normal mode of operation or is my halo just a little crooked. I’d like to think I am guided by the principle of trying to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing, that being both my purpose and my reward.
I’ve seen eighty plus years worth of this world, so I can speak with some authority when I say that where I live today pales by comparison to where I have been. We have evolved into a me first generation. Everything seems to be predicated on “what’s in it for me”. Such a foreign philosophy, at least to me. Being brought up blue collar, we didn’t have a lot nor did our neighbors. The times were I think tougher then they are today. Sure, you can point to the Covid threat, and would of course be right. But consider this. If you were born in 1900, by the time you were 55, you would have lived through World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Polio Epidemic, Small Pox, and were experiencing the Vietnam War. Collectively, they killed over 470 million people. Yet they survived. And miraculously, so did their sense of purpose, their desire to stand next to their neighbor and friend and give what little they had, not for themselves, but because it was the right thing to do.
You may call me cynical, and perhaps I am. Perhaps my today is like an ill fitting suit that is no longer stylish, but I wear it because I am comfortable in it. I prefer instead to think of myself as a person that has seen enough to make an educated decision on what I would like my world to be, and have decided that this isn’t it. But I also am heartened in the thought that giving without reservation is not dead. As we tackle the current plague you can see the outpouring of acts and actions by millions that harbor the same principles, and live them.
It is often said that what goes around comes around, and I hope it is true. I hope also that the love that beats deeply within the heart of our nation will once again overwhelm the pettiness and self serving actions that drive it today. We had it once. We can have it again. It is however what I want, not what I expect.