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Good deeds seldom go unpunished.
We all wander through life looking for some sort of salvation, or forgiveness, or maybe absolution for our sins and shortcomings. maybe we’ve left some wreckage in our wake, some hurt or wrong done to us, or by us. It’s a messy business. But when the show is over, just before the curtain comes down, I hope to look back and account for a few good deeds to my credit, to my redemption.
From this perspective,I can recall two good deeds I‘ve done in my life. They were both acts of what I consider charity: good works, like gold laid up in heaven. Both have caused me pain and grief. Good deeds have a tendency to do that. Good deeds involve giving. The really good deeds involve sacrifice. Every gesture of goodwill, every act of kindness is a surrender of a part of yourself to another. It may hurt a little or a lot but the rewards can be enormous.
The first involved standing firm, drawing a moral line in the sand. I was challenged on a point of personal principle. Without my belief in that principle, I would be less than I am, an empty shell robbed of something essential to my being. I was a tree that I had allowed to bend, and bend, but could no longer bear the strain. I had reached the point where I had to stand or be uprooted. That effort cost many branches that have never regrown and never likely to. Principles can be a bugger. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.
The second took the form of a personal connection, a relationship if you will. There were enormous benefits to both of us. It was like a joyous nurturing, a mutual sharing, the breaking of bread together. I had awakened one morning from a dream that had lifted my spirits. I had never experienced such joy and it left me with a sensation that was hard to describe. And so I just gave it expression in a determination to leave every individual that came my way in a happier state than when we first met. As fate would have it, I was paired with a very elderly gentleman and together we struck up a conversation. It was lively and entertaining. It raised our spirits. We had many common interests, shared many locations and beliefs. We gave each other precisely what the other needed in a place and circumstance that otherwise could have been very dark. Two weeks after we parted he succumbed to his frailty and advanced years. He was gone but his presence is still with me. I believe this was one of the most charitable acts I’ve ever both given and received. I sorely missed him.
When I tried to explain the experience to a friend, his only comment was “What do expect when you make friends with a 92-year-old?” To be honest I expected nothing. Charity demands nothing in return. The best things in life are not only free, but often painfully short and sweet.
Lesson #25 – Good Deeds
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