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.
It’s almost mid-month and I’m having a frustrating day (as per what usually happens mid-month for me – it’s like “hump day” but for each month). I’ve tried to contact numerous charities to volunteer for them (started contacting them at the end of last month), and not one of them have contacted me back (that includes the Sally Ann). A lot of the others require months of application, interviews and training before they allow you to volunteer for them. I just want to give my time and no one will let me! The only way around this right now seems to be going along with friends of mine who already volunteer and shadowing them. I don’t want to make this month all about giving money, but it’s much harder than I anticipated to do good actions other than giving money.
This month has also affected my friendships. Every time I do a good deed to someone I know, people give me a hard time because they say I’m just doing it for my writing. I offer friends help that I would have offered any other time and they tell me I’m using them. Other times when I offer help, people won’t accept it because they think they then owe me something or their pride is hurt. What is this world coming to that people think that everything everyone does is to get something in return? There is such a thing as genuine kindness. That’s what people do for their friends and family – help them when they need help, because they care about them and want them to be happy. And when someone offers help to a stranger, they are doing it because they can help and it makes them happy to do so.
My friend from yesterday said he was embarrassed by my post because he hates asking for help because he doesn’t want anyone sacrificing anything for him (see his comment on yesterday’s post). I will admit I was tired when I wrote what I did yesterday at 6:45 AM (far earlier than I ever get up), and I’m sorry I embarrassed him. I didn’t mean to – I was just writing how I felt at the time. And for the record, I INSISTED I was going to drive him because I wanted to see him off, I wanted to see him again before he left and I thought it would be much nicer for him than taking a cab. He did not ask for help, I forced it on him. Circumstances change, that is life, and I am happy he is staying in Toronto longer.
But it does bring up a good point about sacrificing (nothing to do with my friend from yesterday). I don’t really see the problem with sacrificing for your friends, family or community. Sometimes we do things we don’t want to do because we know it would make our loved ones happy. Is our world really so self-centred that it’s not acceptable to do a good deed for someone we care about or accept a good deed from someone who cares about us? When I need help, I am so glad I have family and friends who will spend time to, for example, drive me to my doctor’s appointments when I’m sick even though they really don’t have time to, or come over and cook me dinner when I’m having a bad day. I need them and I’m so happy they are there for me, just as I will be there for them when they need me.
I was so excited about this month before it started, but it has proven harder than I expected. Every time I do a good deed I feel like I’m cheating by writing about it – like it has somehow lost its validity as a good deed. There are things this month I have done that I am not going to write about because I think the people involved will see the good deed differently. I also don’t get as much pleasure in the nice action when I talk about it. It’s sometimes more fun to do it in secret or just to accept a thank you and a hug from the person I did it for. So today’s good deed is a secret and I will think of a plan of attack for the rest of the month to still write about deeds, without taking away from the goodness of them.
It’s 6:56 AM as I start this post. I had just over three hours sleep. I ‘supervisor’ closed at the pub last night – there was a private Christmas party I had to wait for to finish, and then I found a drunk girl passed out on the toilet in the men’s washroom as I was doing my check before locking up that I had to deal with, so I didn’t get home until 3:30 AM (remind me again why I work in a pub?).
One of my best friends is moving back to New York City (he’s originally from there, but has been in Toronto for a few years now) and I offered to drive him to the airport this morning. His flight is at 11 AM-ish. To pick him up and get there through traffic I figured I had to leave at 7:10 AM. I didn’t expect to be at work so late, but either way I would have offered/insisted on giving him a ride.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person – especially if I’ve been working the night before – and that if I offer to do something for someone in the AM, it means they are pretty darn special in my life. Even though it’s early, I wanted to make sure my friend got to the airport safe and save him a little money. And it would be nice to see him once more before he left (I missed his going away party last night because I had to work… remind me again why I work in a pub?).
It’s 6:45 AM when I got the text: “Call me when you get this”. I was drinking coffee and eating breakfast in semi-conscious state. I hoped nothing was wrong. “I’m on hold with Air Canada,” he said when I called him. “I’m trying to change my flight to Saturday. I have too much to do and I could use the extra time to get it done. Oh, there they are. Can I call you back?”
My initial reaction in my foggy brain: “are you kidding me?!” As much as I’d love to have him stay longer in the country, I wish he could have figured that out before I got myself out of bed after three hours sleep! But, alas, unforeseen circumstances: his computer crashed last night when he got home from his party and he lost three days worth of backing up of hard drives he’d been working on. He didn’t get any sleep trying to re-pack all his computer equipment he figured he didn’t have to bring because he had consolidated them. He still has some immigration papers he needs to sort through and his room could use a clean before he moves out. All valid reasons to stay longer. I definitely understand what it’s like to move your whole life and try to fit all of your belongings in two suitcases to fit on a plane. And who wouldn’t want to stay in Canada longer?
Happily he is staying a few extra days in Toronto. I still feel good for offering to drive him and getting myself moving in the morning for him, even if he doesn’t actually need the ride now. If you talk about good deeds being sacrificing (like some people’s definition), I feel like I did plenty of that this morning. But, I am happy he is happy, less stressed and has time now to sort out his life before moving. A little of my sleep is worth sacrificing for a friend.
Now, back to bed…