Overanalyzing my good deeds

give blood

One of my many failings is overanalyzing my good deeds. I seem to have this bizarre need to check out my motivation.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this one before. I’m at the CVS at 613 New Scotland in Albany. As is too often the case, there is only self-checkout easily available, and only one of the two machines was working. The person in front of me had too little money, and in change, to buy whatever it was they wanted.

After their repeated failed attempt, I said, “May I pay for that?” And I did. It was a huge $6.78. But was I doing that to be nice or so I could finish my transaction? Of course, the rational brain, “Can’t it be both?” The rational brain doesn’t always rule.

The last Friday in June, I had an appointment to donate blood at the Albany Public Library, Washington Avenue branch. Of course, I recall that made my first blood donation in 1971(!) so I could get out of work for an hour. The fact that I’ve now donated 178 times doesn’t get as much traction in the psyche. Or that I have donated 100 “points”, whatever that means, back to the American Red Cross.

BTW, only two folks donated including me when the staff said they had to shut down because one of their workers became ill. I put that fact on Facebook. But later, I discovered that they managed to call in someone and it was restarted. I hate giving out bad information.

Free ice cream!

After the library, I went to Stewart’s to get milk and a free pint of strawberry ice cream the Red Cross gave me for donating. Some rewards, such as T-shirts and ice cream, I will accept.

On to the Price Chopper to buy bananas and Bisquik. The woman in line ahead of me was having some complicated transaction with her EBT (food stamps) card. By the end, she was going to void the sale. I said, “May I buy this?” It was two containers of apple juice for her inarguably cute child with her. And it was only $3.13. After the woman thanked me and left, the cashier said, “You did a good thing today.” Somehow, I found that disconcerting. I don’t mind doing nice things, but I’m oddly uncomfortable with someone pointing it out, especially such a minimal deed.  I like to do my good works in secret, I guess.

Unrelated to good deeds, but at APL Washington Avenue, two people took an extraordinarily long time using the bathrooms. I made some passing comments to the others waiting.

Finally,  I got my chance. When I exited, one of the people still in the queue said, “Do you always talk to yourself?” Ah. I thought we were having one of those collective momentary experiences. My bad. I replied, “Why yes, I do. I find myself utterly fascinating.” That was untrue but I was so taken aback, it was the first thing that came to mind.

Doing your good deeds publicly?

When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!

HydrantsFBBack in mid-February, our local newspaper social media guru wrote: “A good deed loses some of its purity when it’s broadcasted by the ‘doer’ on social media.” I thought this was self-evidently true.

One person replied: “I’d like to think people do this to inspire others to follow suit. But the skeptic in me is pretty sure that they do this to satisfy their ego.” I have no idea about the motivation, but too often, it just feels unseemly.

Another: “If you want to pay it forward, just do it! If you are looking for praise for your complimentary cup of coffee , then you did it for the wrong reasons.” I’ll give that an AMEN.

And: “Bragging about a good deed is tacky. Class is when you do the right thing, not only when no one is looking but also when no one will thank or praise you.” YES.

And: “I know when I had someone do a random act of kindness for me, I was shocked and mentioned it on social media.” If the receiver mentions it, that is a whole ‘nother thing.

Of course, MY first reaction was to cite the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t QUOTE it – this WAS Facebook – but I shall do so here, from chapter 6, verses 2 and 3:

When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.

Then the conversation went into a slightly different direction, about digging out fire hydrants, a function, no doubt of a then-recent fire on a Friday night, where the firefighters were hampered by a hydrant being buried in the snow. By Sunday, local fire departments, both paid and volunteers were liberating the hydrants.

I noted: “Saturday, my daughter and I liberated TWO fire hydrants on our block, NOT in front of our property. She said, kiddingly (I think), ‘We should get a citation from the city.’ My thinking was that the deed was the reward, and would not have otherwise mentioned it at all but for this conversation.”

This is a long way of asking: do you note in social media when you do a good deed? Is it for promoting oneself or to inspire others to do likewise? The above example notwithstanding, I almost never note my good deeds, because it doesn’t feel right. For me.

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