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al·tru·ism  /ˈaltro͞oˌizəm/
  1. The belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.
  2. Behavior of an animal that benefits another at its own expense.

I just made an appointment for my usual round of blood assays; it's tomorrow, at 10:30. Making the appointment reminded me of my last assay, perhaps five or six weeks ago. I had made an appointment the previous day, and was happily waiting to be called in by the vampires. Also there were a lady of about my age and her elderly father. The phlebotomist takes walk-ins as well as people with appointments, and the gentleman was one of those walk-ins. As he and his daughter were already there when I had arrived, I am unsure of how long they had been waiting, but the gentleman's daughter was becoming a bit impatient.

After a while, the vampire came out and called my name. There was some obvious disappointment on the lady's face; motioning toward the nice gentleman (who, incidentally had been waiting quietly), I told the vampire "Why don't you take this gentleman now? I'm in no real hurry." The vampire motioned him in, he smiled toward me, and his daughter thanked me; a few minutes later, he was done, and it was my turn. On the bus home, my favorite driver was at the wheel, as he had been on my trip to the phlebotomist. I got to have a wonderful conversation with him for the twenty or so minutes it took to get to my stop, and to my dismay, found myself checking his left hand and wondering if I should ask him out for a cup of coffee or something. His left hand is "clean", by the way, and Goddess help me, the next time I get his route. I guess that I really am not as lesbian as I've wanted to be.

Anyway, once home, I got to thinking. I seem to do that a lot. I got to thinking about what I had done and why I had done it. Was this an example of altruism? Probably not, I reasoned, even though I had quite a lot to do once I got home. There were kitties to pet, I absolutely had to listen to the Apollo 11 air-to-ground for the 129,578,346th time that week, all the really important stuff. So the bit about "my own expense" really doesn't apply. What about the "well-being" of the gentleman and his daughter? Not much to say there, either. The gentleman was waiting quietly, it was his daughter who was slightly rankled, and she had already indicated that her father was a walk-in; both knew that they were in a modified FIFO stack. So, absent altruism, what was my motive? Was I "being nice"? Why? I'll bet you a freshly-brewed cup of coffee that I will never see these people again, so what could I possibly gain by "being nice"? Or did Eric Hoffer have a point when he wrote

It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives. Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.

I leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to judge.

May 2013

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