Helping Others Can Be Selfish

To the good people of Houston, Texas and surrounding communities so devastated by Hurricane Harvey:

I, with you, am suffering Harvey’s mal-effects and sympathize with you.  I’ve provided direct help and plan to make financial contributions to help.

It is profoundly selfish on my part to provide emergency help to my loved ones and friends and then to the good people known and unknown who work to provide my groceries, build my home, fuel my car, mow my lawn, care for me when I am sick or show what Texans can accomplish in space.  Help is what I want to do for these good people who are achieving their own dreams. These good people would never dream of taking away my dreams by theft or force. I value all that they make available to me. So I help in an emergency.   Please don’t call it giving back.

I never took from those good people more than what they offered for my payment. Those good people gave me what I expected as a customer, each of us acting in our own interest.  It is in support of my selfish interest in living in a community of such people that I have helped them.  Please do not call it unselfish.

What I have done this storm and previous storms is to make sure my family and I were safe and as comfortable as possible through both plan and action.  Then I would verify relatives and friends were similarly safe and comfortable. Then I would check on the welfare of neighbors.  This  sometimes entailed putting people up for a night, running electric wires to a neighbor’s house,  putting food in my refrigerator to keep when neighbors did not have power, cutting up fallen trees in the subdivision, cleaning ditches with my tractor to abate flooding or listening to someone’s story.  These are the kinds of things many Houstonians are doing for their own neighbors.  I liked the adventure in the face of a tropical enemy.  Eventually when I had money, I contributed to the community of just such good people. Please don’t call any of it sacrifice.

Our culture praises the selfless sacrifice of the boat rescues.  It would be a selfless sacrifice for someone to leave his wife, infant child and sick grandmother on a rooftop in the dark and rain while he ferried any number of strangers to dry land.  Such selfless stupidity should rightly be condemned.

The real heroes are all those thousands of Houstonians who in an emergency such as Harvey make sure they are themselves safe, then help their loved ones, friends and neighbors – the good people valued by the heroes themselves. Only then might they enjoy taking their boats out to rescue strangers.

The last are my heroes.  Please don’t call it selfless sacrifice.


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