Monday, February 5, 2007

Friends help you move. True friends help you move...

No, not "bodies." What's wrong with you people?! Sheesh.

True friends help you move on Super Bowl Sunday, in Chicago, when the Bears were playing, in -30 degree weather (okay, with windchill, but it's not like you can stop the wind from blowing, is it?)

Sweet. Merciful. Jeebus.

You people deserve a medal. Yes, you, Greg, and you, Travis, and you, Jayson.

One thing that people in my recently departed line of work like to work their jaws about* is the question of whether or not true altruism exists. Hippies and religious people mouth platitudes about casting bread upon the water and how it will return to you (oops, maybe that's actually a parable or something-- anyway, it's Ecclesiastes 11:1), but you see that that one has the not-altruistic thing built right in... hey, it's comin' back. Anthropologists like to talk about "generalized reciprocity"-- the kind where you give stuff and labor to your culture-mates and stuff and labor sometime, from someone, gets back to you, but not on a fixed date. Other anthropologists and behaviorists like to ponder whether giving one's life to save a stranger's child would be altruism or not... because you do, after all, get to engage in cultural reproduction by ensuring that a younger generation carries on your values and knowledge. And of course decency and uncommon service and/or valor are activities that can translate into other forms of social capital. It can hurt when nobody notices what a stand-up person you are; even Chewbacca roars when he is overlooked, when he has done exactly the same job that gets his companions shiny medals and honors.

Altruism is a fuzzy thing. I, for one, believe that it exists. Yes, people do give of themselves every day in ways that they do not expect to be repaid. They do it because it gives them character. They do it because they have character already. They do it because it makes life better. They do it because they have an inner compass that says they ought to... and I, for one, don't think that compass is always pointing to "next it's my turn."

One thing I know is that my friends don't expect much of us directly in return. We're moving far away, and most of them have already been victims of my execrable discipline as a correspondent. The circumstances under which it would even be possible for me to repay their kindness would arise again only under conditions so rare as to boggle the mind.

But several things apply. 1) You have character, gentlemen. Oh so much character. You have my unbridled admiration and my awe, and I am grateful not only for your help but that I got to know you. 2) I am inspired, and will do something huge for somebody the next time, and every time, the opportunity presents. 3) I got your back, and I will get you back. If you ever need a body... er, a household moved in freakishly inclement weather on a festival day, you know who to call.

Bread on the waters? Maybe. At the very least, it's gonna come back as pizza and beer. My intentions are that it come back as far, far more.
*Oh yeah. At first I mistyped "work their jawas about." I thought I'd share that typo-- the idea of whipping those poor, little, glowing-eyed, cloaked opportunists into building a road or pyramid or something, or moving my frostbitten crap onto a moving van, makes my inner Darth smile.


Grampa said...

Thanks for the kind words, my sweet, dear friend.

Altruism is a concept I think alot about. I have spent alot of the last decade working for altruistic organizations, sometimes in not-entirely-altruistic jobs.

The essence of altruism is doinng something good for someone without expectation of something good in return.

I am the archetypical surly, sarcastic IT guy, who also has functioned as graphic designer, researcher, organizer, editor, and sometimes even cheerleader for work aimed at improving public schools or how our government interacts with the world or the plight of low-wage workers.

I don't expect a direct benefit from this work, but I am trying to mold the world into a better place, and I do live in the world.

If my friends fall, I am usually the first to chuckle and the first to offer a hand up. I don't expect them to help me simply because I have helped them before. I only expect them to take my hand the next time they need it.

With Love,


Ducks said...

See? You said it better than I ever can. It's funny. You can know a person for a long time -- even pretty well -- and never know what they're made of.

I always knew you were going to be the first to chuckle, but it took years for me to discover that you would be the one with a hand out to help me up. It wasn't this time 'round, by which I mean I found out about your kind and giving nature oh, years ago, but you continue to exceed my expectations, and this episode was especially breathtaking.

For those of you who don't know screen names, Grampa is Greg, the Loadmaster, who stood out in the frozen cold and packed the truck while people ferried boxes to him. If he doesn't have frostbite, I am shocked.

Anyway-- my boss is another like you, Greg-- active for charities (she is at a fund-raiser she organized tonight, in fact). I'm lucky and privileged to have a job with her. I bragged about you gentlemen packing up that truck in that weather, and she burst into tears, because she was touched. "Your friends are absolutely golden," she told me.

She was right. :)

Oh, and I am delighted to see you respond to a post on this blog-- hey all, it's open season. Fire at will!