Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ego, Pride, and Random Acts of Kindness

We always hear about how we should all be doing random acts of kindness, and of course, that's true. The world is bound to be a better place when we are kind to one another.

I was surprised, however, when I was the recipient of a random act of kindness earlier this week. Surprised because I struggled with accepting it.

I struggled with accepting a gift.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Still, it's true. Here's a brief recap of the event: I received a bill for a necessary home service, and it was exceedingly higher than I'd expected it to be. About 5 times higher, actually. Hoping there was some mistake, I called the service provider, who explained politely that this was a flat fee, charged to anyone who required the service. I was irritated, and I'm not proud to say, vented extensively to P, who explained pointedly to me that it's always wise to ask about fees up front.

Even though I strive to lead a balanced, peaceful life, it is always a work in progress. I'd made the call to secure the service a few days before, while in the car, en route from one place to another. I'd never asked the fee. Instead I'd made an assumption, based on what I had paid for similar service in the past, and now I would - literally - be paying the price.

Imagine my surprise, a few hours later, when the service provider called me back, and told me he had decided to waive his fee and consider the work a donation. Many people in my shoes would have simply said "Thank you!" and counted their blessings.... I did not react this way, however. The more he explained to me that he simply wanted to do a random act of kindness for someone, the more I persisted to him that I could pay the bill.

It was never a matter of being unable to pay it; I had simply been astounded that I would have to pay so much. And I could not stop feeling, deep inside, that he was waiving the fee because he thought, for some reason, I could not pay it.

Enter pride.

I could not feel gratitude for this man's gentle act because I could not stop thinking that he had assumed I was financially strapped, though I'd given no impression of this in my call. Finally, P said to me, "Why do you care so much anyway what this stranger might think of you?" When I could not explain it, he called it like it was: "It is your ego wanting to shout, I HAVE THE MONEY!"

Whoa...but one of the reasons I am so crazy about P is that he cares enough for me to risk honesty. And honesty, let's face it, sometimes is a risk. I needed to hear that, however, because being too attached to our delicate, fragile egos is a much greater risk, especially when it makes us analyze a random act of kindness so much we can't accept it.

Paulo Coehlo states, in The Alchemist, that if we reject a gift, 'the universe might be listening, and give you less next time." So in writing this post, I am expressing my now ego-less, completely sincere gratitude for the service provider's random act of kindness.

And remembering to also be grateful...

                                                   ...for yet another meaningful, powerful lesson.


Grace Contreras said...

I embrace all that you share and this brings up for me to know and to confirm: concepts that we are all here to help one another in our life paths, not that we alone are here to help others and just be a giver- we are here to learn to balance out the giving to one another and the taking from one another and learn the balance to give and to receive. In reading your blog what came up for me is to continue to teach myself to be open to hearing when spirit leads us to do so... Mostly things intuitively felt and acted upon come from the heart and have no real rhythm nor reasoning it just is an act from the heart- Thank you for sharing...

Debby said...

I've thought a lot about giving and receiving , and that has led me to read what others have thought about this constant experience and the feelings we have regarding it. I don't remember who wrote this, but here it is. The giver is in control and feels powerful, while the receiver is vulnerable. This may not always be true, but I think it's worth pondering.

Virginia ("Ginn") said...

In giving, I believe we have an opportunity to discover who we really are. If we find ourselves expecting ANYTHING from the act of giving, we are likely to be disappointed. It is wonderful when one can give, with absolutely no strings attached, judgements suspended, no score-keeping, etc. Sometimes this is easier than others. And there are so many lessons for recipients to learn too - an straight forward thank is all one needs to say and then perhaps pass along the kindness in some quiet way. - Ginn, Sippin' Coffee on a Rainy Monday

Amy Alley said...

Thank you Grace, Debby, and Ginn for meaningful and insightful comments! There is always so much to learn about and Debby, I think your observation is especially insightful. It really made me think!