My brother recently used the word “selflessness” in one of his poems, and it brought up a thought process I’d had on that word a long time ago. Some 30+ years ago, someone (I’ve long forgotten whom) suggested I read The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. I did so, though it felt very dry to me and took me longer (much, much longer) than the time in which I normally read a book.

I cannot remember more than the basic theory of “selfishness” as seen by the author. But there was one part of it that has stuck in my brain and remains there, obviously, still today, though it is seldom called upon. According to Rand, and some definitions across the Internet, selflessness is giving no thought to yourself and doing/giving to another without getting a single thing from the interaction.

Pretty much my regular readers and people who know me in real life know that I rate fairly high on the list of people who are ‘givers’. But guess what, only once in many, many years of giving to others have I been able to think of an action I performed that was selfless.

You see, while I am very quick to be giving to others, those actions are also a benefit to me. I like to help other people, like to bring joy to other people, like knowing that, in whatever way, I’m making life a little bit easier for someone else. In other words, while I’m giving something tangible to another, I am getting a positive emotional experience in return. That is an experience that happens and that I can count on happening. So my actions aren’t truly selfless.

Only once do I remember doing something that, as I look back now, I consider might fit into the ‘selfless’ list. It was probably 5 or so years ago. I was leaving the grocery store and saw a man in tearful distress practically ripping his car apart on the inside while a younger woman (daughter or granddaughter I suspect) was trying to calm him down. I walked over to see if I could be of some assistance. Apparently, he’d put a folded $100 bill in the pocket of his shorts to spend at the store when he left home, and by the time they got to the check-out, it was gone. He had no other money on him, so the female with him paid for his groceries and kept assuring him that she was okay with buying the groceries for him. After ripping through the car’s interior, he said that he suspected that it had fallen out of his pocket in one of the aisles in the store. I suggested the other female and I walk into the store to look for it. As soon as we were far enough away that he couldn’t hear us, I told her that there was a really slim chance that, if he did in fact drop it in an aisle, we could expect to find it, but we quickly scanned each aisle. When that was unsuccessful, I walked up to the ATM at the front of the store, withdrew $100, handed it to her, and asked her to give it to him and tell him it was a “random act of kindness”. I quickly left the store and proceeded back to my vehicle again, which was parked 3 aisles away. I got in my car and quickly left the store because I didn’t want him to do anything except accept that it was a random act of kindness. The thing is, it was such a spontaneous gesture that I never had a moment to think about what I would be getting in return for it. To be honest, there was no emotion involved in my action – my brain just told me it was the right thing to do and so I did it.

I forgot about the event as quickly as I knew it was the right thing to do in that moment and only by the word selfless coming into focus again made me think about it. It truly is the one time I can remember giving to another without seeking for or receiving acknowledgement that I’ve done so!

Sure, I make some large-sized donations from time to time at our local food bank (or used to before the prices quickly tripled on everything!), and I’ve filled countless boxes of items to donate to non-profit thrift stores as I continue to ‘simplify’ my life. But it’s always in my head, while I’m packing up boxes of lightly used items or carrying boxes of non-perishable foods to the door of the food bank that someone – even if I don’t know whom – will benefit from what I am giving. And that is the happiness that brings me joy.

So, for me, there is a large distinction between being selfish, unselfish and selfless. I don’t give to others so that I can feel that joy – it’s simply a by-product of my being giving. So, I’m not being selfish. But is my giving unselfish if I get a positive experience as a result? And other than that one time I described, I don’t ever recall being selfless.

But, I’m not saying that it’s wrong not to be selfless. Yes, I may get something from being a giving person, but it is never more than what the person who is on the receiving end. Luke 6:38 says, in fact, to “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Honestly, I hope I never need that, but it’s calming to think that I would receive back if the need arose.

What is your happiest memory?

Readers: I know I haven’t been writing much lately, having given in to being a domestic goddess while the energy to do so is present. Of course, some of that time has been in the kitchen, but I’ve also been cleaning out closets and purging my life once again of unnecessary and meaningless objects. Most of it has been, however, doing a bit of organizing of what I am not willing to part with.

However, I was reading another’s blog which listed the 20 questions that you need to ask yourself – and answer – in order to promote self-awareness. Some of them made me struggle quite a bit! One would think that, at my ripe-old age, I’d have come higher to the peak of self-awareness than I am!

One of the questions that was asked was, “What is your happiest memory?” Again, at my ripe-old age, I have a plethora of happy memories. But the first thing that came to mind was a visual of a photograph I have of parents opening a Christmas present from all of the children. My parents, in many ways, lived with ‘hand-me-downs’ and luggage pieces were a testament to that. When we found out that they were planning a European trip with our aunt and uncle, we (probably the older brother’s idea) decided that they needed matching luggage. And that’s what we did – bought them an entire set of 5 pieces of matching luggage! We’re talking old-school and a long time ago, when Samsonite hard luggage was the best of the best. I can still see that photograph in my head and the look on their faces when they kept opening the pieces, from the biggest to the smallest, and finding another piece tucked inside! No doubt, though they could have afforded to buy them for themselves, they never would have splurged on it themselves.

Of course, my most recent happy memory was seeing Phil Vassar in concert and getting to meet him personally for the first time. But it seems interesting to me to recognize that my first thought was about a gift to another, not something for myself. And I’m reminded again that joy is a greater gift than happiness, and in giving to another, we experience that something greater.

Now I’m curious to know what other people’s favorite happy memory is. And I’m curious to know if something came to mind immediately or if you had to think about it. Please share with me in the reply section!

Friday’s 5 Takeaways – 5/24/19

Since last we met here, I have taken the plunge into believing that, although we never really had a spring season, summer is definitely on its way!

#1 – Now that I’m ready to believe that, I finally put away all of my cool weather coats and jackets this week. I’d put away my really heavy winter coat back in early April, but only in this past week or so am I willing to believe I no longer need the jackets as well.

#2 – In celebration of the approaching summer, I spent several hours cleaning all of my porch furniture, hanging plants on hooks and sweeping away the debris of late fall and winter. I’ve been able to enjoy a cup of coffee (usually some or all of my 3rd cup) on the porch, once full daylight has just settled in, and just vegetate while watching traffic and people starting off their day. Mine is the only one of six apartments that has this outdoor space, and because of it, I chose this apartment over another available apartment that had a kitchen at least twice as big as mine.

#3 – Living alone, my place doesn’t really get dirty, except for dust and road dirt coming in that I can’t control. Nonetheless, just like I did last month in the days before visiting my brother a month ago, I cleaned the entire place. There is this idea in my head that, if something should happen to me while I’m away, I don’t want whomever has to enter here on my behalf (even though it would most likely be my brother or my bestie) should find things looking sloppy.

#4 – I could write oodles about the success of my visit with my brother this week. It was, as always, an awesome time filled with hours of conversation. As a fellow blogger (also my inspiration and mentor when it comes to my blog), we’d be chatting and often, one or the other of us would stop and say, “Oh, that could be a future blog post!” It’s fun to have that in common together! Of course, now if he writes about any of them (he jotted down a few of the topics), I’ll get to take credit in the comments of helping spark the idea!

#5 – I had a planned opportunity this week to “pay it forward” and it was successful. Along with it, however, I had an unplanned opportunity to “pay it forward” to someone else, which was also successful. There is so much joy in giving!

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everyone! To those of you who served to protect this country and its freedoms, thank you! You are the reason we celebrate!