Helping Others vs Self Service

I believe in helping people. I don’t like charities because they’re functionally businesses with bosses that rake in a lot of money. It’s in my nature to personally help people in a justifiable way, however helping people doesn’t mean I’m selfless in my actions. Often there is something to gain.

In the workplace I help people when I can, I don’t get paid more for it but occasionally someone remembers to show gratitude with a word of thanks. I do it to seek that approval, to let the others know they’re not alone in their struggle and I can feel good about it. It’s a closed environment full of people that I know so there’s bound to be some added extra when helping.

What about strangers then? I have two recent stories from the last few months. One was where I was waiting at a bus stop at which a man was carrying big black bin bags that were falling apart, he was dropping things all over the pavement. I only realised what was happening when I heard a terrible clang. The noise was a set of crockery plates hitting the ground. I watched the man try to re-stuff the broken bag which just irritated me, especially when I noticed he had two empty bags for life with him that would have held the plates. I went over to him and suggested he use the stronger bags, then held them open while he packed them. I’d done something nice for a stranger, motivated by my irritation at him which meant I was just solving my own problem in helping him.

The other recent occasion of helping someone was a girl on the bus. She asked a question about where something was, which stop she should use. I tried to explain using road names and local landmarks but she didn’t know the area so that method was no use. I told her to get off at the same stop I did so I could show her. This left me half way down the route with a ten minute uphill walk that inconvenienced me a bit. Although it should have felt good to help someone I was more frustrated with myself for the walk, I gained nothing from the interaction to put me on a positive. It was truly about helping someone who was lost and nothing else.

This line of thought gave me an idea of the rich man we learned about in RE at school (the eye of the needle stuff), Jesus telling him to stop being rich to get into heaven. It wasn’t about making him poor like I’d thought, it was about selflessness to join the Jesus club. He had to show he didn’t only serve himself.

In the past I’ve done volunteering work to build my cv. I’ve done nice things or bought things seeking the approval of others. So often when I’ve helped out it’s been with my own reasons. Similarly I’m certain other people have reasons for doing things, just think on in future if the nice things you do are for those it helps or really just to somehow benefit yourself.

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