Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hedonistic Altruism

This has nothing to do with writing or anything except perhaps human nature.

After church today they had the Sunday School picnic which is an excuse to bring dishes and lay on a big feed and eat outside whilst hanging around with friends. This put us on the road home a lot later than usual.

My wife, Mary, and I saw a kid pushing a Honda Spree northbound as I was headed southbound.

As you may know, I ride a Honda Metro on beautiful summer days like today. My brother rides a Puch Maxi that dates from the '70s. So, I whipped the van around and pulled alongside the kid. "Can we help?" I feel a sort of kinship to all moped and scooter riders.

The kid turned out to be a teenaged girl of short stature and a butch haircut.

She said yes and I tried unsuccessfully to start the scooter. It fired a couple times, but I couldn't get it to catch. The next time the battery gave up the ghost. Besides, I didn't have any ether to spray into the carburetor.

She indicated that she was headed toward a friend's house who lived nearby.

Between Mary, the girl, and I we managed to manhandle the scooter into the back of my van. The only tricky bit was getting the stand to engage. Next time we'll put a scooter facing backwards, not forwards. We gently drove up to her friend's house careful not to tip over the scooter.

Having dropped off the girl and scooter at her friend's house, we bid her farewell and went home. I felt good. We'd helped a damsel in distress. Mary expressed how good it felt to help out. We made out way home basking in the warm glow of having done a good deed.

The Savior speaks of the Scribes and Pharisees who made a big show of their alms-giving and religious observance. He advised them to do good deeds in secret that they might be rewarded later publicly. Then he said of the hypocrites that they have their reward. I always understood this to refer to the praise of other men who witnessed their displays of piety.

Now I understand this a little differently.

I've been stuck on the side of the road before. And I've felt helpless in the face of non-cooperative machinery. It is not fun to push a dead scooter a mile or so home. So, I know it meant something to that girl when we stopped.

That made me feel good. It made me feel like a better person than I really am. And I could sense just a bit of admiration in Mary's voice when we were heading home. She thought I was a better person than I really am, too.

And that feels good, too.

This probably is nothing new to most of you. It's no secret that the high-profile altruists like Mother Theresa derive great pleasure from their acts of Christian love.

I don't think they are phonies like the Scribes and Pharisees, but I do think this pleasure is the bulk of their motivation.

The Savior was right. They have their reward, because I know for a fact that I have mine.

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