On the way home from the markets yesterday I said to Eva, “Lets buy the boys some chocolate.”
So we did just that.
Stopping at the last convenience store before the ashram to avoid the slabs melting, (“What on earth is a dairy?” Is the response I get whenever I forget I’m not in NZ) we purchased two Snickers, a Twix and a Mars Bar. I was going to get a big block of Cadbury Silk Dairy Milk, but at 160 rupees it was pretty steep ($3.80 NZD – I feel abhorrent now for being such a tight arse).
We chilled them in the fridge for an hour when we got home and then cut each one into four (extremely evenly I must say) pieces, presented them on a plate and then rounded up the boys.
First up, my cheeky gap-toothed cleaner. When he saw the extremely unappetising platter we had prepared, his face lit up. He tentatively took one piece, and after much coaxing and persuading he took another two.
Onto Hari the assistant cook, Bhatt the priest, Govind the main run-arounder then Anil, my main man. Each one clapped their hands in glee when we proffered them the plate, and each only took one piece at first and had to be convinced to have seconds and thirds. They were concerned with making sure there was enough to go around and didn’t want to launch in and be greedy. It was quite humbling.
Observing these men savouring these congealed, teeny squares made me realise something that made me feel like absolute shit.
Sure, how nice was it, me buying them a treat on a Sunday afternoon. Giving them a delicious wee snack they would seldom be able to delight in. Lovely lovely. What a nice act Pop! But was it? Was it really?
I have to be honest and say that no, it was not at all. Seemingly selfless, it was actually unbelievably selfish. The motivation for doing so was completely wrong. I did it for my own self good, my own conscience, not for the actual thought of these men. The moment this dawned on me, crystal clear, it got me questioning my true motives for a lot of actions I’ve undertaken the past few weeks. And when re examining some things I’ve done, l realised that the majority were actually self-serving pretexts.
So when does an act for another person become genuinely lovely? I think I could say with a pretty good target rate that a good 70 per cent of “good deeds” by people have underlying incentives. Take the Nepal earthquake. I remember heaps of people – now I wouldn’t say boasting as such, maybe more announcing; yes, announcing – announcing that they had donated a portion of cash. Some even proceeded to state the exact amount. It’s like some of them were congratulating themselves and wanted everyone to know of their magnanimity. Does this still make it a generous act? Or is some of the nobility and altruism lessened because of the true motivation behind the charity?
To be sincerely philanthropic, a person wouldn’t have the need to make sure others knew of their actions. They wouldn’t make certain that others witnessed their good deeds. And the motivation behind it wouldn’t be for them to smugly smile with satisfaction when they went to bed at night.
One person who is truly generous and compassionate is my dad. Hank always donates to causes, charities and buys items for others. And he never, ever, ever feels the need to make us or anyone else know about it. If we happen to learn of him doing so, it’s by pure accident.
Coercing one of the boys to take the last segment of chocolate proved quite the task. Although you could see in their eyes each of them would’ve loved it, they were adamant it should be offered to the next man. And it wasn’t to be seen as the selfless one either; it was genuine brotherly love. That’s generosity.
From here on I’m going to question the true motivation in my seemingly selfless acts. I want to do so from complete and utter altruism and compassion. Instead of parading round with the plate so I’m forefront, I want to anonymously watch the joy unfold from afar.
I don’t want to be all about me anymore.