Musings On Our Capability For Selflessness

A couple of years back, I wouldn’t have been the person to say, “I think all human beings are inherently good.” I’d have considered that a reckless statement. I only had to watch/read the news to confirm that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s all out there – terrorism, civil wars, all sorts of crimes – it’s even hard to stay sane.

I easily become hopeless when considering the evil perpetuated by humanity; however, I find hope in the fact that there exist people who are remarkably altruistic. I’m referring to folks who go out of their way to help other people (specifically, strangers) in big ways. And sometimes even put their lives at risk in the process.

Reading this, you might wonder why I’m amazed about the show of kindness from one human being to another. It’s normal, right? Except, it’s fairly common for people to be more compassionate towards people they are related or really close to –family, best friends, lovers. It’s those who can extend this virtue to total strangers that fascinate me. In my opinion, it’s an incredibly exceptional and lovely trait.

Last month, an incident occurred at the bus-stop close to where I live. A PHCN official got electrocuted while he was working on a high tension wire. I didn’t witness it, but my friend and I got the story about what happened when we got to the bus-stop on our way back from work. We asked someone what was causing the disturbance. The young man narrated the entire incident to us while pointing at the actual electric pole where it happened. It was then I spotted the yellow helmet the PHCN official was wearing, dangling between the wires. It happened that he had no gloves on, he grabbed a live wire and you can guess what happened next. I was told that when the man got electrocuted, his co-workers did nothing to help him; they panicked and for some unknown reason, they couldn’t help him down after he was fatally electrocuted. Apparently, everyone was watching while this man got electrocuted and after which he remained strapped to the pole, helpless. No one could help him down even when he showed signs of life by making slight, jerky movements.

Everyone watched in horror until a stranger on a bike, who saw the man hanging there, asked his bike rider to stop while he got off the bike and up the ladder, he unlatched the PHCN official and carried him down. At this point, the electrocuted man was put in a car and rushed to the hospital.

In my opinion, it was incredibly kind and brave of the man to have brought down the PHCN technician. I was moved by such courage and helpfulness. When I began to listen to other people tell the story, I noticed how everyone was commending the brave man’s action.

In a way, such people make me have faith in humanity. While everyone isn’t out there saving the world- we have our own troubles and are too busy minding our own business – we all have (I believe) a way of being selfless when it really matters to us. We have a potential to be really good, and it’s great to watch and experience. It shows in the way we act spontaneously, without thinking, when we offer help to someone when it’s absolutely necessary. A stranger literally saved my cousin’s life when he took her to the hospital after a reckless driver ran her over and left her for dead. She doesn’t even know this man, and she definitely never got the chance to even thank him. He had looked for a way to inform us (her family), leaving us to continue taking care of her and had gone before she regained consciousness. Sometimes, these random acts of kindness from strangers need not be “huge” to make a great impact: it could be something as simple as letting the nursing mother with a crying baby go ahead of everyone on a queue in the bank.

There’s something about putting the need of a total stranger before yours, risking and giving something without any expectation; it’s the purest kind of love. And I’d like to think we are all capable of it.

Perhaps there’s a part of me that had always (and probably will always) expect less from people – hence the reason why I’m deeply surprised by exceptional altruism. But I’ll always be marveled and grateful. Because for every time a person chooses to do something selfless (even lifesaving) for a stranger, there’s also a choice where the person looks the other way, and things turn out sadly different. Nobody wants that.

Can we be kind to one another? Can we pass on the undeserved favour we have enjoyed from total strangers? Yes we can! Start a care chain today and let’s see how far it goes.


I have to edit this soon :)

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