What motivates someone to perform a selfless act which benefits another? Perhaps there are many reasons why this might happen. I would be fascinated to know the answers.
According to Wikipedia, altruism is described as the principle and moral practice of concern for happiness of other human beings or other animals, resulting in a quality of life both material and spiritual.
It feels like this is a fancy way of saying that a person’s primary concern is for someone else, rather than their own gain.
I believe I witness this to some degree every day. I see folks letting others get in line in front of them in traffic. I see people open doors for others, especially when they are weighed down with something. And I have seen folks pay for the coffee of the next person in line.
I enjoy observing these intentional acts of kindness and usually join in some way. It makes me feel alive and engaged in the world around me.
And then there are the incredibly beautiful and sensational acts that show up in the news and social media.
They are about everyday people who come to the aid of others, often with no concern given to their own safety. They do it because they feel it’s the ‘right’ thing to do at the time.
They ran into traffic to push someone out of the way of an onrushing bus. Or they help shove a car off the railroad tracks before a train crushes it. Or they swim into the ocean to pull someone to shore. These are heroic acts of love and compassion and wonderful statements about the character of human beings.
But the altruism I’m thinking of right now transcends these marvelous actions. It moves beyond, to the level of sacrificial, heart-centered majesty.
In my travels in this life, I have only encountered one person who demonstrated this kind of altruism. She donated one of her kidneys.
She was reluctant to share much about this, but I discovered that she didn’t even know the recipient. They were not close family to her, nor a dear friend. In fact, she had no relationship with them at all, other than knowing that their life was in jeopardy.
I don’t know all the facts, so I can’t tell you a great deal about her story or that of the person she saved. I’m not sure that’s even relevant, because what has stayed with me all these years is her uncomplicated view of the situation. They would die without a kidney, and she was a match for them. That was enough for her.
I don’t know of a greater sacrifice than this.
Recently I signed up to be an organ donor…when I die. She signed up to be an organ donor…while alive. That’s a big difference to me.
I wonder to myself, could I do this? I realize we have two kidneys and humans can live with only one, but how do you get past the idea that you have two for a good reason. They function together. They keep your body healthy and if, for some reason one fails to function properly, the other is able to continue your life.
I am amazed at her courage, her compassion, her strength, and her love.
It seemed as though the sharing of this selfless act with me slipped out of her. A momentary lapse. I truly do not believe she had intended to tell me about this, nor has she told others. It’s her personal story.
She remains one of my hero’s, not because of what she has done, but because of who she is and the love she carries inside of her. I live in awe of her.
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