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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Dickinson

How the "Good Deeds" Practice Began

I was on the road the other day and came up behind a pickup truck. The tailgate of the truck was open and the things that were lying on the truck bed looked like they could easily either fly out in the wind or slide out on an uphill. I maneuvered beside the truck and signaled the passenger to open her window so I could tell them their tailgate was open. They didn't know! They immediately pulled off in order to fix things up, thanking me as they went.

It wasn't so easy to maneuver next to them and I considered it carefully so as not to put myself in any danger on the road. I could have ignored the situation, but when I drove away, I found myself saying out loud, "There! I've done my good deed for the day!"

That's a funny thing to say, isn't it? Who said we can only do one good deed per day? I don't know! It occurred to me, with a smile on my face, that doing a good deed was a real boost to my mood, carrying me through much of the rest of the day.

That got me to reflecting on past episodes of "good deeds”. The one I remember most clearly was an encounter I had with a young woman many years ago. She was sharing with a group I was in how she had fallen on hard times, lost her job, couldn't make the rent, was about to be evicted, struggled to feed her children, and had decided she must put them in foster care. Now, I don't believe in coincidences, but I had just come from lunch with a friend of mine who then, in her 60s, still reflected on her childhood in foster care and how hard it was on her. That’s when I made a bold decision to say to the young woman privately, “I don't know if there's any chance for you to keep your children, but I know that they will be better off with you, no matter the circumstances, then they will ever be in foster care.”

As an aside, I would like to say that my opinions are formed wholly from the effects on children in foster care and of their interpretations as being “left” by their parents. There are wonderful people who foster children, and it is always a miraculous thing when foster care is competent and loving. Sadly, that is not always the case, though. What I know from my friend is that the interpretation she made was that her mother didn't want her, and this hurt her deeply. Children don't have the ability to understand things at an adult level, especially when it comes to their attachment to parents. My thinking, when I spoke to this young mother, was based on these observations.

About a year later, a young woman approached me and said, "You probably don't remember me." My standard answer is "I will if you remind me." She told me that she was the young woman I had spoken to a year earlier about trying to keep her children. She went on to say she had succeeded in doing just that! She was grateful to me for my encouragement back then and wanted to thank me. Yes, I may have been “sticking my nose in her business”, where it really didn't belong, but the outcome was positive.

This story sticks with me to this day. We are not meant to simply “mind our own business.” I believe we are meant to engage with other people in the form of good deeds. Now that's not to say we should do whatever we want willy-nilly. We do have to be careful. We have to be appropriate. We have to be respectful and kind. At the same time, sometimes, we have to take measured risks, like I did.

Another resonance of this story has to do with something like “anonymity”. There are those who caution us that we must do good deeds without credit for them to be something like “pure” or “authentic”. For me, that’s a lot of pressure! Sometimes, there’s no way to avoid notice for a good deed done. At other times, receiving a little gratitude for doing a good deed, like my story of the mother and her children, is a brilliant encouragement to do more. I heartily endorse all three “angles” on good deeds: do it when no one can see (like scooping poop); do it even when people are watching (like the open truck tailgate); and do it whether there is a “thank you” or not (like the young mother).

I admit, my favorite good deed is, in fact, picking up after other people's dogs! It's simple. It's respectful. It's responsible. It’s “invisible”. And it's really hard for anybody to object. But my efforts go beyond clean ups. Giving my seat to someone who needs it more than me; letting someone with one or two items go ahead of me in the grocery store checkout line; paying for somebody's coffee in the coffee shop when they don't expect it; noticing the name of the cashier on their tag and thanking them by name; yielding when I don't have to in traffic, in parking lots, at stop signs, or when someone is trying to exit onto a street… All of these are good deeds, and they always leave me with a smile on my face.

Next week, we’ll share more tips on wishing in our FAQs section. We keep our promises! We had fun getting “side-tracked” back in February, but now we’re back with tips to help you wish!

Until then,

Peace and All Good

Margie and Barbara

The Wish Mavens

Photo Credit

The bitmoji featured in this post was created by (and features) Barbara J. Dickinson.


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