The day started early with my nine and a half hour trip to Meknes. I stopped here on my way to Rabat. I arrived and gave my host family gifts I brought them from the US. I bought my mom a big candle that says “MOM” on the jar in flower letters. My brothers got Hi-Chews and Life Savers. My sisters received string lights with clips to hang photos on. They were all very pleased with their gifts. My mom was so excited that the candle said “MOM.” She just told one of her daughters about it, as I’m writing this, with a proud smirk on her face.
I was so excited to give them their gifts that it got me thinking about altruism. And how I don’t know if it exists. It doesn’t exist within my own experience. I am definitely happy to help others. But that’s the point, I always gain or expect something when I help others, whether from within or outside myself. Even if I don’t want to help them and faced a huge inconvenience or challenge, once I do it I feel good that I did something for someone else, and the appreciation builds me up. When helping someone didn’t end up providing me with anything, if maybe they were unappreciative or rude or I regret giving my energy for some reason, then I’m often let down, even if just for a moment. So deep down I expected something, and it can’t be altruistic.
It’s an issue of the chicken or the egg I guess. It’s too hard to pinpoint a motivation in my mind and within society. I don’t feel comfortable assuming it started with the selfless act and the satisfaction came after. Even so, the first time could subconsciously motivate all future helpful acts. I’m thinking it might exist if you risk your life to save someone else because it minimizes the future expected returns. I just don’t think I’ve ever helped someone and not cared about the outcome. I help people to influence them positively and that makes me happy.
I have yet a lot to learn in my life, and I’m sure my future experiences will continue to influence my stance on altruism. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if truly altruistic people exist, have existed, or will exist, but I would be shocked if it was commonplace. All this being said, I don’t think that just because something isn’t selfless that it isn’t empathetic, generous, and benevolent. Personal advantage does not negate a positive impact on the world. You can have good intentions and give back and feel good about it. Ultimately that is just maximizing the positivity that comes from giving.