Due Credit

Soulst0p called me out this week for one of our impromptu Souplantation runs.

How many times do you forget that coupon at home and somehow end up at the business establishment for which it’s valid?  Yeah, same here.  So I was excited to tear off one of the Dinner-for-$7.39 coupons on my fridge.  It was time to get my grub on.

We met up, got two plates each and started piling it on.  By the time we got to the salad dressing (the bread, soup are beyond the cashier point), a black couple had caught up to us.  I was eager to not forget the coupon in my pocket and save $1.61 before tax for each of us (we were at the Beverly Center, but there are bigger savings to be had at the Brentwood location, where dinner is I think $9.39 there).  I handed the cashier the coupon, and remembered the coupon was good for 4.  On a whim, I said to “include these two,” as I pointed to the couple next to me.

The cashier looked at me and nodded, although the couple ended up later getting rung up by someone else–with the savings passed on.  And while my impulse was to just let them know that my coupon had saved them $1.61 each, I first noticed that they were in an involved conversation with each other.  And then, it seemed as though my attempt to claim credit would have appeared futile and petty. 

I can see it now.  I’d wave my arms.  Lean over to get their attention.  Interrupt their conversation.  “Heyyy…yo!!  Yo…!!  Yoo hoooo!!  I just saved you 3 dollah!!”  in the most obnoxious way possible.  And the response I would expect?  It would undoubtedly be life-long friendship and undying gratitude.  Yeah, sure. 

So instead, I just decided not to say anything.  They never noticed the discount.  I decided, too, that I was fine with it–and it would be kind of an effed up thing not to be okay with it.

Does it really make a benevolent act more worthwhile if you get credit for it?  Or instead, doesn’t it actually detract from the altriusm of the act, itself?  Aren’t the philanthropic motives somewhat tainted when philanthropy wasn’t, in fact, the main or only point in the first place?  Are not altruism, benevolence, philanthropy and charity synonymous with “selfless?”

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a dedicated altruist.  I’m too impatient.  Self-absorbed, even.  Case in point, I’m freaking writing about saving someone 3 freaking dollars, here.  Isn’t that pretentious.

I saw this birthday card once.  On the front, it said, “Happy Birthday to you” with a cute little avant garde floral design on it.  On the inside, it said, “And good karma to me for sending these wishes.”  I remember laughing out loud inside that gift shop.  So true.

I believe in that.  Not to the tee, nor do I think “good things” should ever be expected–but I do believe in the effect of actively sending off a positive chain of events because it’s the right thing to do, and probably more importantly it’s the right habit to form.  Do these things make me feel good?  Yes.  Does getting credit make me feel even better?  I’d be lying if I said no.  Can anyone even help that the act of even getting credit does make someone feel good?  No.  In fact, if you took away that fuzzy feeling people get for giving money–even if not to actually help someone but to alleviate their own conscience for living a better life than others–then what charitable monies would remain?

By the way, who cares that Angelina Jolie is rescuing and adopting these poor kids from far-off nations when there are plenty of orphans in the country?  At least she is doing something.  What are you doing for charity?  What’s with criticizing how she is charitable?

What use can you derive out of an inherently good action? Is credit the end to the means or is it just the cherry on top? Would lack of credit change your decision to carry out the generous action?

Too many questions.  But anyway, I had a resolution come out of this.  I’ve made a conscious decision to perform random acts of kindness–preferably more consequential than including others on a coupon–with the sole result of not attaining credit for these acts.  Perhaps I should make some sort of goal or benchmark, like one a week, but I have yet to ponder how to go about it.  I’ll update you when I come to it.  🙂

Hope everyone has a great weekend.