My brother Art signs off most phone calls and cards with the salute, “Okay, do good and rock on.”
Which gets me thinking of the philosophy (and movie) called the magnificent obsession.
The magnificent obsession is doing something nice or good, but not telling anyone about it. Basically, not taking credit for a good deed.
Its purpose is to teach the practitioner humility I suppose.
I understand this and for the most part agreed with it. It is fun to be the secret “do gooder” in the neighbourhood. It feels good knowing that something you do, will make someone else smile, ease a little stress, even make the world a better place to live.
My dad was a big fan of this. The thing that got me though was, he always told us about it.
“Today, I preformed a magnificent obsession,” he would exclaim, begging someone to ask for details. He would say how important it was for everyone to do something good in the world and never ever let others know they did it. He would go on, but then, he would always say, “Like what I did yesterday for so and so.”
I always thought he kinda missed the point. Maybe, but maybe not, as I’m starting to change my mind about it all.
I’ve learned a lot about myself from this magnificent obsession.
Doing good is important, certainly a habit to cultivate. It’s this not telling anyone about it that is a line I am now willing to walk over.
The reason I’ve started telling of my good deeds is not to brag or accept kudoos, it is more because when someone told me of their good deeds, I was inspired to do good myself. I don’t do good because I am awesome — I do it because I am able.
If no one had mentioned to me that they cook for the local shelter once a month, I may not have heard of the opportunity, and I would still be feeding just Ken my culinary delights. As it is now, I’ve signed up to cook for the homeless once a month, like my friend does, and maybe after reading this – you will too.
If I hadn’t seen someone else pay it forward in the ferry line up, or at the cafe for the next cuppa coffee, I wouldn’t know that was a thing. Now I do.
Doing good in the world is something I needed to be taught. It’s so easy to walk on by or to think that what I have to offer is too small or insignificant, so I won’t do anything.
But, then someone showed me how easy it is to drop some change in the buskers hat on the corner, and how little it took to hold the door, help carry something heavy, or cut a piece of that pie and share it to your neighbour.
I had to learn it is just as easy to say yes, when asked to help as it is to say no. But the biggest lesson I learned is that not everyone asks. Actually very few do and so I find it is better to err on the side of generosity and do something anyway.
Many times, I’ve been the recipient of others doing good. I’ve received scholarships when I couldn’t pay, I’ve been gifted when money and time were short. I’ve been treated many times by the generosity of others, sometimes by complete strangers, but mostly by those who at the time, were able to help.
Doing good, I see now, as an opportunity to teach. It is not to brag, or get your name in the paper or be given compliments in return. It’s to show, that we are not alone and what we do helps.
This world has some big problems right now. It is so easy to feel helpless. We need way more than prayers and thoughts, we need something to do.
I’m thinking it is important to have an answer when someone says “What can I do?” We need not to be shy about saying – I did this. I gave that. Nothing is too small or inconsequential.
It is inspiring to me when I hear what others are doing. Being anonymous is nice — it does humble us, but similar to being anonymous in recovery, when we show our work, we open the door for someone else, to show how easy it is for all of us to participate.
Okay, do good and rock on.