You Get What You Give
written December 17, 2007
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. - Winston Churchill
People tell me I'm an asshole all the time, and it actually makes sense. But we're not going to examine me from other people's perspectives. We're going to look at me in terms of standards all people should consider reasonable: mine. I like to consider myself a genuinely good guy. I mean, I lend people money when they ask for it and don't pester them if they're late paying me back. I visit my grandparents regularly, I have a strong work ethic (extremely strong considering the $3.08 restaurants have the audacity to call compensation), and I do people favors all the time. Sure I say asshole things from time to time, well, pretty much all the time, but more often than not I'm only kidding. But that's not what I'm torn about.
I just read a book on self-improvement, Unlimited Power. It's not my typical read, but interesting nonetheless. Anyway, I was more inspired by the author's persona and achievements than his actual message. At 22 he was friendless, living alone in his apartment, 60 pounds overweight, and doing his laundry in the bathtub. Hello, me. At 25 he was physically fit, had a bombshell blonde wife with a house overlooking water, and was pursuing a basically limitless career that he's passionate about. All in the span of three fucking years. It's not enough that he's successful and enjoying it, but he said it started from a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless, victims of abuse, and prison inmates. Well now, I just got me a role model.
I went to the bank the other day to make a deposit. You know the Salvation Army guys that ring a bell outside the entrance and tell everybody merry Christmas? The guy ringing the bell looked me in the eye, flashed the most genuine smile I've ever seen, and said
Merry Christmas. I could have sworn I heard angels singing in the background. So what did I do? Did I offer to ring his bell while he took a well deserved break? Did I write a check for all the money I would normally piss away on gambling, alcohol, and women's insecurities? Well, almost. After vividly imagining myself shoving the bell down his throat and kicking him in the spine, I grunted something unintelligible and walked right past him... without putting any money in the donation basket.
So much for my grand plans in life of helping the less fortunate.
Writing about that little scenario reminds me of an inspiring story I read a while back...
A rich, selfish man was given a glimpse into heaven and hell by an angel. In hell, everybody was sitting at a long table with all the delicious soup they could ever want right in front of them. Everybody at the table was also bone-thin and crying. The problem was that they all had straight arms that wouldn't bend, and the only utensils they had to dip in the soup were long handled ladles.
That's a shame, said the rich bastard.
The food is right in front of them, but they can't even feed themselves.
Then the angel showed him heaven. The picture was similar. Everybody was sitting along a table with straightened arms and ladles they couldn't eat from. But there was an important difference. They all had smiles on their faces, and they all looked well nourished.
Why would I want to go to heaven? the selfish asshole asked the angel.
It's no different than hell.
Because, the angel replied,
in heaven they don't feed themselves. They feed each other.
Can we learn a lesson from this? Probably not. People suck and they're not worth feeding. Angles lie.
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