So, why do you do the things you do? The good things, I mean.
We all do things we’re not proud of, and we wonder sometimes about our motivation. (“What was I thinking?”) But do we also wonder why we do the good stuff?
I think we do it for the rewards. I don’t think there is any such thing as pure altruism. We wouldn’t continue doing things for other people if we didn’t get something out of it.
Just ask people why they volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister, why they work long hours as a teacher, why they travel across the world to build a hospital or across town to build a Habitat for Humanity house. Ask someone why he tutors low-income kids or why she reads to nursing home residents once a week. Ask disaster relief or food pantry workers what makes them do it.
Most people will say something like, “I get far more out of it than I put into it.” It feels good to help. It feels right to help. And the vast majority who do it once do it over and over again because of what it does for them. When we do for others, we gain a perspective that we couldn’t easily achieve otherwise.
Yesterday, Rory McIlroy, a 22-year-old professional golfer from Northern Ireland, won the U.S. Open with the lowest score in that tournament’s history and an eight stroke lead over the 2nd place finisher. This was after his collapse in April in the final nine holes at the Masters, where he’d led the field by four strokes, but finished in 15th place. Who knows what makes an athlete lose spectacularly in one major venue, then win even more spectacularly in the next? But we know one thing about McIlroy. The week before the Open, when his competitors were spending long days practicing, Rory traveled to Haiti as a representative for Unicef. He observed the still highly visible remnants of the January 2010 earthquake, and saw rebuilding efforts. He noted that the presidential palace remains partially caved in and that thousands of Haitians still live in tents. McIlroy visited a rebuilt school where he played and sang with the children, and helped them practice hand-washing techniques (to prevent the spread of disease). He’d planned a visit to Haiti’s only golf course which has been, for the last 18 months, turned into a tent city for those who have nowhere else to go. But the night before, torrential rains caused mud slides on this formerly lavish course, in which many tents were washed away and dozens of people died. Rory changed the lead picture on his Twitter page from a photo of him playing golf as a child to one of him holding a young Haitian child.
No one can say if a trip to one of the poorest countries in the world made Rory McIlroy play better golf last week. Yet he’d be the first to say that it was a journey of perspective. Losing the Masters isn’t much when compared to what the Haitians have lost. Winning the Open is tremendous, but then so is making children smile, when they don’t have much to smile about.
Jesus said, “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Go give a cup of cold water, and receive a gallon in return.
© Melissa Bane Sevier