Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Can we ever achieve true selflessness?

This past weekend Ste. Anne's participated in Lifefest - a 3 day show primarily for women at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto. David, Katriona, John and Laura "worked" the show on behalf of Premier Spas of Ontario. On Saturday afternoon I got a call inviting me to come into the city for the night. After a little bit of hunting on-line, I ended up booking a couple of hotel rooms at the Sheraton Centre through Price-line.com's "name your own price" feature. I had thought about using this tool in the past, but was always afraid that I'd end up in some awful hotel in the wrong part of town. As it turned out, it worked just as promised, landing us newly renovated rooms in a great location for $75 - a great deal. I picked up Katriona's other half on the way into the city, and along with David, the four of us went out for dinner at Terroni's new Adelaide Street location. I was first introduced to this authentic and very friendly eatery at their Yonge and Balmoral location, which is just across the street from my dentist's office. I now try to co-ordinate dental work with a gastronomic treat. We had a great meal and lots of laughs, returned to the hotel and had a good rest, although in the morning I felt as though I'd smoked a pack of cigarettes - I guess I'm not used to city air. On our way home we stopped at a greasy spoon on Carlton, just east of Church Street for breakfast. The waiter was just as entertaining as the food was good as he told us that his closet included at least 200 pairs of jeans, just as many dress shirts and shoes - quite a character. As we left the restaurant a somewhat aggressive panhandler approached us. Our first instinct was to get past him, but then I thought of how much money we had just spent on ourselves and proceeded to drop a fiver into his cup. I encouraged him not to spend it on cigarettes or booze. He had a salt and pepper beard and his teeth looked like they could use a good cleaning. I'm quite sure a warm bath would have done him some good as well. We jumped in our cars and headed for home. At Bayview and River Street there was another panhandler, there is almost always one there, I guess its a prime location. I rolled down my window and reached for the spare change that I keep in my ashtray. At first I pulled out a few coins to give him, and then I decided to dump the whole thing into his hand. Now I'm not telling you any of this to sing my own praises as a generous guy - quite the contrary. I could be a lot more generous than I was or than I am. You see, as I gave these guys money, I was very aware of the people I was with and what might think of me for giving, or not giving. Of course, I wanted them to think of me as kind and generous, which instantly turns the act of giving into a selfish act as I derived something back. Even if I hadn't had any witnesses, somewhere in my subconscious mind I'd be hoping that my creator or my final judge would be making a note of my actions. For people who make a life out of charitable works, who go on missions, who take in the less fortunate, I have no doubt that their act of charity gives back to them, be it through recognition by their peers or the recipients of their good works, or simply in the hope that they will make it into heaven as opposed to spending eternity in hell. One could argue that even the greatest to live amongst us anticipated and collected a reward for their sacrifice, even if what simply the approval of their father and the knowledge that they had saved mankind from eternal damnation. So, here is my question: how can a human being achieve true selflessness, or are we denied this simple pleasure once we grow out of the innocence of birth into adulthood?

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