The Narcotic of Selflessness

Years ago, JFK challenged the nation thusly, he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask instead, what you can do for your country."  If this sentiment seems naive today, that's simply because our idealism has waned to the point where it's difficult to see - even with equipment.  Jewish tradition holds that the noblest form of generosity occurs when the giver and recipient are unknown to each other - therefore, neither can derive benefit from the act beyond the gift itself.  It is always possible to grant small favors which offer no promise of return - holding a door, making room for someone in traffic.  But I have found that the best way to start a "pay-it-forward" chain is by listening, by being a witness to another person's life.  The gift of your self, your time, your attention, and your empathy, trumps anything else you can offer.  Interestingly, EP provides a platform for this to occur.  But there is a difference between passive listening and active listening.  To listen actively you must clear your mind of distractions, i.e., ego, agenda, and preconceptions.   
ElLagarto ElLagarto
56-60, M
16 Responses Jul 7, 2007

Thank you, thank you very much.

I went there today AWESOME ! Your amazing sir.

El Lagarto has left the building.


You would not believe the things i have encountered ok fine i am not mean but i can be . *kicks dirt* lol

Redheads are known to have a little wild streak. -- It's good to get to the point where you don't look to others for protection. But for me that's not about being mean - simply confidence. Bullies smell confidence, and because they are weak, lazy, and cowardly - tend to go where the picking are easier. Standing up for yourself doesn't make you mean.

Yes it does help and i am mean now! lol

I just read your post about your brother standing up for you in high school. So touching! I've known plenty of women who never had that experience - never felt safe or protected. That's horrible. I raised a daughter and I know that growing up female can be tough. I'm sure it helped her to have an alligator in her corner who was only too willing to flash his teeth if required. The world can be mean.

I love you!!! :)

Alligator blushes. p.s. There is nothing quite like a redhead - fantazaroopy!

El baby your the greatest!

I don't think I execute the "Pay It Forward" chain concept in the technical way you describe. Perhaps the way I do it it's more like a "lease-with-an-option-to-buy" chain.

ElLagarto, please explain. You refer to creating a Pay It Forward chain. What steps, if any, do you take to confirm that people are paying it forward? Also, what do you say/do to ask the person to Pay It Forward?

Intersting story and comments.<br />
I am amazed at the people I meet that think kind deed must be done for profit.<br />
My husband and I are foster parents. The questions and comments that we receive from people never stop amazing me. We are regularly ask how much money we make. Let me assure you it is not about the money. I don't know exactly how much we receive but I know that it is far less than a dollar an hour. Many people comment on the kind act of charity we are preformimg. How lucky the kids are... that type of thing.<br />
Lucky?the kids have been uprooted from all they know and placed with strangers. I don't care how kind the strangers are that is not lucky.<br />
Despite all they have been through when they come to us they always end up giving us more than we give them. Often when they move on I loose track of them, but I always remember something about them... their smile, or some funny story, something that reminds me that I am the lucky one. I invested my life in the best interest of a precious child. <br />
I think perhaps I am the one receiving the charity.

Thanks for sharing indeed. The world is clearly lucky to have you.<br />
<br />
The Jewish idea of anonymity in charity does not prevent you from feeling good about yourself - the core idea here is that - siince the recipient is unknown to you - you cannot profit from it by using the gift as leverage to get something back.<br />
<br />
I too pick up litter, and while I do it for the general benefit, I also do it becasue I don't like litter and and it makes me feel productive.

i guess i create pay it forward chains everyday..with a smile, a friendly gesture, exchanging an honest glance with a stranger, allowing people to feel connected to me, holding doors open, picking up garbage wherever i go....of course all those things make me feel good! does that mean i'm benefitting from the act "beyond the gift, itself?" the jewish philosophy you mentioned is extremely interesting to me. it makes sense, in a way. cuz, i get so much joy from doing things for people (visitng people who are stuck at home, etc.) and i feel guilty for how much i enjoy it. once, i even said to someone, "i'm not here just for you. i've got selfish reasons for being here, too: i'm trying to stack up my blessings." but, is that really selfish? aren't we supposed to "seek first the kingdom of heaven?" the best part about when i do something nice for someone is seeing the smile on their face; or seeing the benefit of my action/gift. is that really wrong? i'd like to have a discussion about this.<br />
thanks for sharing.