Altruism: The Human Fuel


Altruistic Hero“You are a superhero. You just made my day.”Those were the words of Bernice, an eighty year-old, in appreciation for the time we spent chatting on a Sunday afternoon. I have to admit I experienced a flow of energy inside that made me feel better than ever.As I left St. Cecilia’s Parish, my mind was racing thinking about what just had happened with this woman.  Did I do something really extraordinary? How long did it take to make someone happy to be considered a superhero? And more importantly, why did it feel like she was the one who changed my entire day for good?  I couldn’t believe how powerful this action was. In two hours I had changed someone’s life by just donating some of my time, and yet I felt like I was glowing. It was in fact therapeutic: by helping others you end up unintentionally helping yourself.

In this fast-paced world, we execute a significant amount of tasks everyday, trying to get the most of our busy lives. Required to multitask—and now to manage life online and off—we have learned  to spread our attention across multiple screens. For many, our schedules are so busy that helping one another has become a secondary activity.  According to this online definition, a society is: “a group of people related to each other through persistent relations; a large social grouping that shares the same geographical or virtual territory.” In other words, people acting together. If to that we add the doing-good factor—which intrinsically triggers a feeling of accomplishment—we render what I call “human fuel” that will for sure keep society moving forward.

It didn’t cost me a thing to sit and talk for a while with my now new-friend, and her words encouraged me to continue with a more altruistic life style.  An altruistic action has a tremendous power: it gives you an opportunity to connect with others—both giver and receiver benefit. If we could replicate this in a bigger scale, a slew of value will be introduced to our society, creating a positive impact in the world.

Because I was curious to find out more about real day-to-day acts of good, I went on and asked some people to share their last experience when helping others. Very satisfied with the results, I learned that everybody had done at least one nice thing for another person. From bringing a colleague a cup of coffee in the morning, giving a bus seat to a kid, shaping balloon animals for a children’s hospital to buying lunch for a homeless person, regardless the size of the action, all of them had generated an impact on another human being.

If you feel motivated to perform an act of good, here are a few starting points to consider:

1. Think of something you like doing for others. Perhaps you have a specific skill that might be useful to another person.  We do best what we know best.
2. Determine for how long you can are willing to commit. This way you make sure you are providing with a quality experience and generating good impact in someone’s life.
3. Vary your acts of good.  This creates a nice flow of the things you are willing to do.  Keep it fun!
4. Record your great deeds and pad yourself in the back. Writing down these acts of kindness will serve as a reminder of the value your actions have in the world.

After that first Sunday evening, I’ve visited Bernice regularly. We’ve become good friends. We talk about TV shows she likes, things she does during the week, and her favorite spots in Medford. You might see my time with Bernice as altruistic. I see it as a friendship. I would never imagine that helping others would feel so great. In fact, volunteering might be the most selfish thing I’ve done in months. Do we need to redefine altruism?

When was the last time you volunteered? How did it make you feel? Share your experiences below!


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