No good deed goes unpunished. Do the right thing anyway.
If you are a decent person in the world, you want to do the right thing.
You want to be generous. You want to be helpful. You want to share what you’ve learned.
I love that line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka says, “So shines a good deed in a wear world…”*
It sends a shiver down my spine even thinking of it. Acts of kindness, compassion, courage all make the world a better place.
I believe my artwork, and my writing, is a way to be that good deed. I share what I’ve learned, I share my stumblings and muddling, I try to be my authentic self. I do it so people can see (if they choose) they have something to offer the world, too. Sharing our creative work is essential, and healing, and powerful.
Before you rush to “help”, though, consider these thoughts:
Ask the turtle. Don’t assume you know what is needed. Find out. Our assumptions get in the way. People who don’t know what they don’t know, and who don’t want to find out, just make things worse.
Don’t judge. I remember being told, “Don’t give money to street people, they’ll only spend it on booze and drugs!” So I didn’t. Until I learned that living on the streets is hard, and frightening, and dark. Someone who knew better said, “If they turns to drink or drugs to comfort themselves, who are you to judge?” A recent article on a homeless-outreach group suggests we lie down on the sidewalk before we judge. “How vulnerable do your feel, with your head on the concrete, exposed and unprotected? Scary, right? That’s how these people feel every single day.” Research now shows that creating safe havens and housing for the homeless is critical to helping them get the services they need–because being on the street is so traumatic, not much can be done until they have a place to call home. Only then can they begin to heal.
Don’t feed the vampires. In our rush to help, we may encounter vampires, in the most surprising places. Vampires are people who feed on the attention and emotions of others. Sometimes they are simply needy and desperate. Often they already have so much, but it’s never enough. Recognize the black holes in the world. The people who will take and take and take, who feel you/the rest of the world, owe them.
Don’t do it for the thank-you. We’ve all had the experience of taking on a tough project, contributing, volunteering, often unpaid, as a way of giving back to our community. Inevitably, there’s the jerk who is quick to let you know you’re doing it wrong. They are negative and critical. They are the ultimate back seat, constantly telling the driver where to go. My husband’s comment is, “No good deed goes unpunished!” The response I always stifle is, “I think the word you’re looking for is “thank you”….”
In this TV episode of Supernatural , (a guilty pleasure of mine. Remember the “don’t judge” thing!) Bobby the boogieman hunter is dying. He has to revisit his worst memory, a scene from his horrific childhood, the day he killed his abusive, violent father to save his mother. It’s his original story, his core story, the reason he chose to spend his life fighting evil in the world.
It’s also where he learns for the first time that the people you save will not thank you:
You did what you had to do. This is where you learn that… they pretty much never say thanks when you save ’em.
There are reasons for this, but I’m not getting into that today. My point is this:
Don’t expect gratitude. Don’t do it for the thank-you.
Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
*”How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
–William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)