The other day, I ran into a neighbor who was quite excited about her volunteer work with underprivileged children. She told me that she had committed to coaching them in some activity on Wednesdays and had cut short a business trip and rearranged her schedule and her life in order to be in the city on that day. She showed me a broken key chain which she had promised to replace for one of them. Since I was on my way to the hardware store I offered to buy her one, but she said that she would take care of it.
I walked away thinking how wonderful it was that she was giving back from a life of extreme privilege, and feeling good about the depth and breadth to which her soul could reach.
That evening, I overheard her on the stairwell of our building, telling my next-door neighbor about her volunteer activities. We all know that Skankblossom doesn't give a damn about anyone but herself, but still she was regaled with the entire story, word for word, that I had heard earlier. Soulful neighbor had cut short her business trip and rearranged her life to be here on Wednesday, but it felt wonderful to give back. She even mentioned the key chain she had replaced for one of the children.
By this time, it was getting old.
It made me wonder what, exactly, constitutes a good deed, and is it in fact a good deed if it also includes bragging rights?
It seems that if the giver benefits as much as the recipient, it is not true giving. Yet, it's surely better than the alternative.
I am leaning toward the belief that it is still good if others are helped, but perhaps less pure than if they were helped out of sheer compassion. Giving must always be better than not giving, but I prefer that it be done anonymously, without demanding recognition or credit.
Is there a hierarchy of giving, a scale by which generous acts are measured? How much does intent matter if the result is beneficial? Does the end justify the means?
I doubt it.
But I am also aware that if only the truly enlightened performed kind acts, there would be fewer kind acts performed. And that would be abysmal.
Perhaps the very act of doing good raises our vibration so that it becomes easier next time. We have to start somewhere. But how much nicer to refrain from praising ourselves when we do it so our deeds are not diluted by ego.
To paraphrase Matthew:
"When you do merciful deeds, don't sound a trumpet before yourself as the hypocrites do that they may get glory from men. Don't let your left hand know what your right hand does, so that your merciful deeds may be in secret."