Altruism is a lofty aspiration. The do-gooders of the world are widely revered for their pureness of heart, selflessness and generosity. Could it be that they have an ulterior motive? Even if their reward is simply to feel good about themselves?
I think we can all agree that we would have done whatever was in our power to prevent the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Yet, today, three times as many people are at risk of famine in Africa than those who perished in both those disasters combined.
We often feel compelled to give, whether it is a material item or an hour of listening time to a friend in need. However, when it comes to giving, are we secure in our motivations and how we've prioritized?
As the founding volunteer director for Thistle Farms I have long ago bought into the myth that beggars can't be choosers. As a professional beggar and priest for more than 20 years, I now understand beggars have to be choosy.
Serving enables us to step beyond our own desires and to release any sense of separation. It takes us out of selfishness and neediness, and in the process we see our own self-centeredness in greater perspective.