I never thought this month would be so emotionally draining. I had plans to spend the day doing secret good deeds for strangers (something I will be doing soon), but I just don’t have the energy. I’ve been talking a lot recently about the complications of trying to help other people and writing about my personal life at the same time in the blog. A few friends have made the point that doing good deeds usually involves helping people in need, which means they are generally in a vulnerable place. When I write about it, it can be interpreted as exploitation. It’s the whole problem journalists face – how far will you go for a story? Will you knock on the door of someone whose son just died to get a quote? How many details will you include of other people’s vulnerable moments? Is it ethical to report on others’ personal pain?
I’ve tried my best to walk this fine line and include personal details of my life and those in my life without exploiting them (for the record, I would never knock on the door of a grieving person to get a quote). Sometimes I realize I can get pretty close to this line. The interesting thing is the closer I get to this line, the more interested people are in reading it. It’s the human fascination with real emotion, including happiness, pain, suffering, love. It’s the reason reality television and blogging is so popular, even if it’s not always as close to reality as they try to make us believe it is. It’s why date month and out of my comfort zone month were my most popular posts.
Doing good deeds involves not only the other person’s emotions, but your own. And writing about it involves a degree of sensitivity. A friend warned me not to make this month about only giving money. I blew off the comment, thinking of course I wouldn’t do that. However, now I know what he means. Doing good deeds from arms length (like giving money), lets you have the positive feeling of giving without having the very emotional experience of being on the front lines to see why it is the cause needs the money. Not to discount giving money – it is very important and if you have the money to give, please donate because there are many charities who desperately need your money – but actually being emotionally involved is another experience altogether. A very draining, but also rewarding experience. That aspect of good deeds has only hit me over the past couple of days. To all of those people who devote yourselves to volunteering for a cause that you care about, you are my heroes.
As for my good deed today, I’ve started going through my old clothes and things to give away. In my emotional, exhausted state, this has become a very personal look back on where my possessions come from and a purge of those I’m ready to let go of.