A long, increasingly long, time ago, I was a Cub Scout, Webelo, then Boy Scout. I didn’t stick with the Boy Scouts too long, other interests intervened, but I was involved with all of these scouting organizations long enough to hear, and personalize, the good deed of the day philosophy. I thought of this today when I was at lunch, seated near the door of a restaurant which had a difficult front door. I watched people open the door for others, or sometimes not. Good deeds are often simple courtesies. My day today started with helping a neighbor whom I’ve never met by calling him about a FedEx package misdelivered to my home. Turns out, the neighbor who lives 2 doors away, who recently moved in to my neighborhood, was frantically trying to locate the package. He was happily surprised when I called him about it. I met his wife in the street as I was headed to their house to turn it over and the relief in her face was tremendous. They were both very appreciative. We have had mail and packages misdelivered and, when we’re on deadline waiting for a client’s retainer, for example, I know the panic. But, whether it is opening a door, tracking down someone with a package, or perhaps, making a referral for a friend, all of these courtesies go a long way in making the world a better place. Watching the differences in the smiling or snarling faces of those who did (smiling) or did not (snarling) open the restaurant door today was very telling!
David performs more good deeds than anyone I have ever met. That’s one of the reasons I like him! He even suggests good deeds for me to perform, such as reminding me to call a sick friend; ensuring I visit an old friend who is dying while waiting, in vain, on a transplant; buying an early version of a laptop to help a needy friend of mine, whom David did not know; and sacrificing considerable time and money, including much needed revenue for our business, to help my elderly mother. I would go one step further to say David helped my mother more than most people she knew, including her family members; members of her church, including her pastor; and numerous long time friends; all of whom received help from her at one time or another. For the most part, my family and friends do not realize the extent to which David and I function as a team, such that much of the help I am able to provide them is possible only because David is working behind the scenes on their behalf. David notices things other people do not; for example, most people would not have observed the door opening behaviors of the people in the restaurant where he was having lunch with clients. Among the things David notices are when other people appear to need his help. As a social psychologist, I find David’s behavior vastly different than most people’s, in that most people I know and/or observe are self centered to the point they do not realize when someone else is in need. It is considerably easier to be consumed in one’s little world than to reach out and help someone who may or may not appreciate one’s help. The next time you are outside your home, look around for an opportunity to help someone. Often, it’s as easy as complimenting someone on her earrings or holding the door for the man with the walker. Trust me: you’ll receive as much benefit from performing a good deed as the recipient of your kindness!