Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Positive action always good idea

(My Clovis News Journal column for October 30, 2015)

There are things you need to avoid doing if you don’t want to be a terrible person. Don’t use violence (including laws) against people who are not harming anyone else, and don’t violate the property rights of others.

It’s simple to not be awful.

If you stop there, no one can have any legitimate problem with you. But, why limit yourself? Beyond this bare minimum, I believe it's a good idea to do things which tip the balance in the other direction, toward actually doing something positive. If it accomplishes nothing else, you will at least be happier. And there is always a chance you could change someone's world for the better.

Where to start? One piece of advice I read recently said a good way to do this is to "be useful".

I try to do this whenever I see the chance. I don't believe writing to convince people to extend their generally civilized behavior to their dealings with people they don't know or don't like, is enough. I also try seeing anyone in need and doing what I can to help them. Or notice something which needs to be done and do it. Sometimes I fail, then I try to determine how to do better next time. There is always room for improvement.

I think most people like to feel useful. Some prefer to work behind the scenes, while some are outgoing and will walk right up to someone to offer a hand. Exactly what you do or how you do it doesn't matter, but some other things do.

Some people might believe advocating government programs and handouts is being useful, but it's the opposite. You can't be generous with money which isn't yours to give, and if you are forcing others to help someone, the resentment which results will cause everyone to lose in the long run. Being useful is a personal act. It is you stepping up, not sending others on your behalf. Sometimes you simply aren't the one who is able to help, and that's OK. It's just the reality.

Sometimes you also have to walk away. Like it or not, you aren't being useful if you don't let someone say "no" to your offer of help.

There is also a big difference between being useful and allowing someone to use you. The difference hinges on consent. Are you doing what you do voluntarily, or do you feel violated?

Choose to be useful when possible. You'll enjoy the feeling.


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