Altruism, Because It's What We Do



There is an old Indian fable about a wise and quiet man who would pray by the Ganges River every day. After praying one morning, the wise and kindly man saw a poisonous spider struggling in the water, so he cupped his hands and carried it to the shore. As he placed the spider gently down onto the ground, it stung him. Unknowingly, the man's deep spirituality and prayers for the world, diluted the poison and rendered it harmless.


The same thing happened again the following day, and the day after that; the poisonous spider stung the wise and kindly man upon being rescued. On the fourth day, the man began to rescue the spider again, and the spider said, "Why do you keep saving me? Don't you realise that I will sting you every time, because that is what I do?" The wise man continued to lift the spider out of peril once again and replied, "Because this is what I do".


There are so many easy reasons not to be kind, and even more strenuous reasons if you are prepared to look, but it's in our inherent human nature to want to help. As a race, we want to lift others higher, to rescue, help, protect and save - just look how many doctors, nurses, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, social workers, teachers, religious leaders, community leaders, armed forces personnel and lifeboat crew members there are keeping watch over our collective safety, democracy, liberty and freedoms.


On a closer and more personal level, if your child falls over and grazes their knee, your automatic reflex is to rub it better to take the pain away. If someone you love suffers a trauma, or experiences crisis, you will step straight in with a hug, a sympathetic ear and an eagerness to lessen the suffering in whatever way possible, because it is what you do. Aside from the small (criminal) minority, it is what we all do.


Sometimes when we help others and feel "stung" for our trouble, we believe that our best endeavours were given in error or in vain, but we must not let that prevent us from helping others. If we help Person A and Person A stings us somehow, then that is to Person A's eternal regret and shame, it doesn't mean Person B will choose the same low behaviour and choices. Our support of Person B may well be reciprocated in the spirit in which the assistance was given, and this is how the world becomes a better place.


Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all recall a time when someone offered us an unexpected and random act of kindness, and then enter each day with an equally kind outlook on life, that allows us to be our natural selves, and to do what we do as warm, kind sentient beings?


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