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Love Notes – Unlearning selfishness

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Maple Creek

By Marcia Love

There are many things I never thought I’d be doing in my 20s that have somehow crept into my life.
I never thought I’d be the kind of person who sits down for tea with girl friends only to excitedly discuss the types of flowers blooming in our gardens.
I never thought I’d be the kind of person who knows how to spell spanakopita, let alone what exactly it is or how to make it (take that, everyone who ever doubted my culinary skills).
I also never thought I would be the kind of person who reads books on self-improvement. But there I was, killing time in Coles, when it happened. I’d gotten bored with the fiction and mystery sections and suddenly found myself among the self-help books. It was there I began flipping through a book essentially detailing how to be a better person — moving away from accomplishments to improves one’s own status or lifestyle to those that focus more on what we can do to improve the lives of others. To my surprise, I ended up taking it home and giving it a look through.
No, I am not the kind of person who normally delves into books on self-examination, discovering more about one’s behaviour and motivations, but it was an interesting read that got me thinking.
In general, we spend the first quarter of our lives being selfish. But who can blame us, really? We are the person we spend the most time with.
Yet now, the older I get, the more aware I’m becoming of the unhealthy personal traits I carry. I am jealous. I am paranoid. I am occasionally sarcastic to the point of being rude. And yes, I am also admittedly selfish.
This realization makes me even more thankful for the selfless givers around me. They are the ones who would offer to help someone having car trouble without even being asked. They are the ones who show up with chocolate and Kleenex after a breakup, even when you thought you just wanted to be alone. They are the ones who jump out of bed at three in the morning because a house across town has caught fire.
These kinds of people are an inspiration. They are the prime examples of selflessness. And it makes me want to be more like them, because, as simple as it sounds, it’s not an easy thing to put into practice.
True, selfless generosity is hard to come by nowadays. Why? Because even behind seemingly generous gestures, we can have ulterior motives ­— whether it’s the recognition, a favour in return or a potential relationship.
We live in a society where a big emphasis is put on the self.
“You have to do what’s best for you.”
“You shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do.”
“You deserve to be happy.”
It’s advice that’s given to us on a regular basis and only serves to excuse our selfish tendencies.
While we shouldn’t be spreading ourselves too thin and feeling the need to be there for everyone, we can make the effort to help when we can, not just when we want — which sometimes doesn’t really take that much effort at all.
It’s great to see schools taking the initiative and promoting that idea, teaching youth to think about the need locally and globally. Within our own community, teens are being encouraged to help others locally through the Trick-or-Food Drive. On an international level, they are supporting a number of beneficial programs and causes through Me to We.
Finding a cause that one feels passionate about and supporting it — whether financially or by donating time — is important. And it’s awesome to see people being urged to do so at a young age.
It doesn’t always take a lot to have an impact on someone’s life. Sometimes all it takes is saying yes in a small way that no one else thought to, a small act of kindness that brightens someone’s day and serves as a reminder that the world doesn’t have to operate in a “what’s in it for me?” manner.

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