Selfish Good Deeds

The other day I was watching Friends (my housemate is enjoying a marathon), the one where Joey says that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed because we do good things to make ourselves feel better. Here’s my point, maybe that’s true, but does it even matter?

Recently some people’s Facebook comments and tweets have depressed and disgusted me (no change there then) but in particular those directed at anyone in the news (celebrity or otherwise) who has done something nice, selfless or charitable which has been picked up by the media.

Firstly, I like seeing good news, it makes me feel better about the world we live in, and the people we share it with. I don’t understand why other people don’t. Then there’s the cynicism and the sneering about publicity.

Today BBC News reported that David Beckham bought a paramedic a coffee and her elderly patient a tea after walking past and seeing them waiting for an ambulance. From some of the comments on Facebook you’d think he injured the man himself in order to stage the photo! Seriously, even if he rang his agent and said ‘hey, I’m driving to pick up hot drinks for a paramedic and patient, get a cameraman down quick’ (which I highly doubt he did) who cares? certainly not the paramedic, who said she was ‘chuffed’ and probably a damn sight warmer.

Incidentally, the London Ambulance Service was quoted in a positive story with a star, which is priceless publicity for them, and yes there was a photo (credited to the LAS) but no quote from Beckham.

I’m as cynical as the next person, more so, probably, having been a journalist and worked in PR, but when we start having a go at someone for helping, and questioning their motives, we need to give our heads a shake, and step away from the keyboard.

Today I gave a homeless man an apple and carried a woman’s suitcase up the station stairs for her. According to Joey (and other great minds) I did these things to satisfy my ego (hence blogging about it) and my perception of myself as a good person. Obviously that goes double for someone like Becks. Me? my thought process went like this – this guy’s homeless, it’s freezing, he probably hasn’t eaten yet today – I have no change, oo but I have an apple! – maybe he doesn’t want an apple – but then he’s probably not going to be that fussy… and I have more apples at home, so I’ll ask him.

It’s worth noting here that for those who don’t know, this is anxiety in action – even when doing something ‘good’ I worry about bothering people!

For the record, he took it gratefully and thanked me in broken English.

And the woman at the station? very simple, I noticed she was struggling, asked if she was ok and then took the case up the stairs for her, why? because I could. Also a stranger once did this for me, and I was incredibly grateful.

So, say I did these things not ‘out of the kindness of my heart’ but so I could feel good, or even so I could write about it, who cares? That man still had something to eat this morning. That woman didn’t have to hurt herself trying to haul that case up the stairs.

I suspect this is also why David Beckham bought those drinks, because he could. According to those ‘in the know’ or cynical keyboard warriors to give them their proper title, it was all a ploy to help Beckham’s image and help him clinch that knighthood he’s ‘campaigning’ for. Because, obviously, being a unicef ambassador, running, founding and lending his name/time/face and money to countless charities and, you know, generally being David Beckham isn’t enough.

I say good on him, and hopefully others will follow suit. I don’t care if celebrities do good deeds to get in the news, better that than some of the other routes to fame or image rehabilitation. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on, we may even get a couple more politicians treating people with basic kindness and respect to increase their popularity…










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