I have been a bit under the weather lately, and is wasn’t due to what the television meteorologists were pointing out on their radar sweeps or green-screen maps. Generally, I have just not felt 100 percent. I was talking to a fellow writer about my physical versus emotional state and caught him completely off guard when I said, “I’ve been keeping myself busier than ever, though. There is no day off for altruism.” He cleared his throat and said, “But what are you getting from it? You must be exhausted. Wouldn’t you rather crawl back into bed and just give yourself a break?”. When I laughed out loud, I think I may have initially offended him. He was showing genuine concern and I was chuckling like a buffoon in his ear. How rude!
I apologized when I heard him go silent, not knowing for sure if he hadn’t just hung up on me or the local cell tower had been struck by lightning. When I heard him acknowledge my statement, I explained myself in better detail. He was generally aware that I have suffered off and on with chronic illness for over a decade. His real concern was that I was pushing too hard to meet an unrealistic deadline I may have been handed or created on my own. After reassuring him that was not the case, I offered him a quote:
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Further confused, he asked for clarification. My illness is out of my control, but how I choose to deal with it is firmly in my hands, so to speak. Yes, there are days when I must focus on taking care of health in more rigorous ways, but I can’t afford, as a person, to pull the curtains closed and wallow in self pity. Hearing my explanation, he told me he felt much better because no one he believed was not at least mentally healthy would come up with a response like that.
After hanging up from the call, I sat on the couch and thought about our conversation. Has altruism truly died in our day? Do people no longer push themselves to reach out in unselfish ways simply to help others? Do people think offers always come with demands or expectations attached?
I know that I have a tendency to overextend myself at times simply because having dealt with health issues, there have been vast and countless numbers of times when I have needed a helping hand. In some ways, dealing with chronic illness has helped me be a little less egocentric.
I love to help others when I see they could benefit from a boost and trust me, that has drawn some strange responses as well. I offered to completely edit another author’s book into e-book format just because I knew how (and did my own book), saw they were struggling (their own admission publicly) and wanted nothing in return. A “thanks” would have been just fine. The author responded to my offer of aid with this question in a public forum: “Why and what do you expect from me in return?” Honestly, not a single thing. I know that writing a story is hard enough without having to spend extra time learning how to meet every editorial requirement to have a book placed into a catalog on sites like Amazon. When weeks went by with no further correspondence, I admit, it saddened me. A lost opportunity for both of us.
So, feeling a bit more altruistic today, I have been putting together some ideas on how to not only share “the love” but give others the opportunity to do the same. In the next few days, I’ll be posting some unique opportunities for writers and readers alike to find a little inner peace and collaborate in ways I hope will be enriching to all – and all it will cost is a bit of time and a willingness to be open and go with it.