About a month ago I was walking through downtown Pittsburgh. It was a magnificent day. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze, and I was in a pretty good mood.
I was walking from my dorm to Point State Park when I decided to stop at Dunkin Donuts and get a 99-cent iced tea (which actually comes out to $1.06 with tax by the way).
I don’t like to carry change. It’s heavy, it rattles around, and I just prefer to use my debit card or paper money when I’m paying for things. (I am lucky I can be particular about how I use money, I acknowledge that.)
So I left Dunkin with my tea in hand and my change in my pocket. I decided I would give my change to the first homeless person I saw. About a minute later I saw a middle-aged man with a paper cup outside of McDonald’s--a common sight--and I gave him my change. All 94 cents of it.
I was proud of myself. I probably made that guy’s day, I thought to myself. My first instinct was to reach for my phone and tell my friends about the good deed I had done. I wanted to be praised for giving a man change I didn’t even want.
But I continued on my way and didn’t fish for praise from my friends. But then I was proud of myself for not telling anyone about my “good deed.”
What is wrong with me that I feel I need validation and praise for everything I do or choose not to do?
Shouldn’t the knowledge that I helped someone be satisfying enough?
Why do I feel so deserving of praise?
These are the questions that flooded my mind as I continued on my walk and I knew I must not be the only person who has ever wondered about this.
Sure, I helped a guy out. But I didn’t lose or gain anything by doing so. I’m not going to suffer because I gave a homeless man money. I’ll still have a roof over my head and food to eat. It’s hard for me to view what I did as a selfless act because of that.
There’s always been a side of me that wants the world to see all the “good deeds” I’ve done even though I know that getting positive attention isn’t the point of giving charitably. I think as long as I acknowledge how I feel, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be praised now and then.
For me, that change in my pocket meant nothing, but for that homeless man, it was a show of kindness and maybe a chance for a meal. That’s what’s truly important.