Welcome to Issue 44

In Defence of the ‘Do Gooders’

Before the recent by-election one of the candidates told me of his encounter with a shopkeeper who, upon hearing of all the good deeds that the candidate had done for the town, told him he was a fool and should leave all of that sort of stuff to the Council. Similarly, I often hear the term ‘Do Gooders’ used as a show of contempt towards those who seek to do good deeds in the community. It seems that a sizeable portion of the population agree with the shopkeeper’s philosophy that we should all ‘mind our own business’, pay our taxes and let the ‘powers that be’ deal with the rest.

To address this issue I find it useful to begin with one of the most fundamental questions of all – ‘Why are we here?’ The answer which makes most sense to me is that our mission in life is to replace ego with wisdom. We spend almost the whole of our waking lives being driven by ego, which is the source of the incessant chatter in our minds as well as the cause of most of our suffering. Ego is constantly seeking stimulation, gratification, security, power, approval, comfort… It will not let us rest until all of these desires are satisfied, which of course, they never are and so we live our lives in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction at best, of perpetual suffering at worse. Wisdom then, must begin with awareness and acceptance of this state of affairs. Only then can we begin to address the problem. The purpose of meditation is to still the mind sufficiently to allow us to escape the incessant demands of ego. If we can achieve this even for only a brief moment we have begun our journey to wisdom, freedom from the chains of ego and to true happiness. The road is long and only very few have reached the summit but we can all benefit from taking up the challenge. Those who have scaled the peaks all speak of the interconnectedness of life and tell us that an essential element of wisdom is compassion. We do not and cannot exist as a separate entity, nor can we attain wisdom and happiness by satisfying only our own needs and desires. Everyone who has fallen in love or has had children will have practised compassion – putting the needs of others before ourselves – and many will have tasted the true joy that this can bring. However, even these acts can often be driven to a certain extent by ego. In the case of a lover, an act of kindness can be born out of the desire for love or approval in return. Our children can become a part of our own identity – their desires and status being a constant concern for our own ego. We know that we are approaching the summit of wisdom when our capacity to give of ourselves to all life knows no bounds, holds no prejudices and needs no recompense.

This is why I believe that those who have chosen to serve their community have taken a major step beyond the shackles of self and family, towards liberation, wisdom and happiness. Studies have shown that people who volunteer in their communities are generally fitter, healthier and happier than others of their age. Those who prefer to ‘mind their own business’ and do little else might like to reflect upon this. For some it may be that the demands of work, family or problems with ill health are so great that they feel they have no energy left to give. Others may be inhibited by a lack of self-confidence or fear of the unknown or of commitment. I suspect that very few, however, genuinely believe that ‘Do Gooders’ are a serious problem in our society. Perhaps those who show contempt for them are betraying the ego’s attempt to conceal guilt or envy. In these cases ego has established a vice like grip and refuses to allow a space for compassion.

It is a reflection on the current state of our society that the people who choose to volunteer in their community are in a small minority. I believe that any community which could enjoy the full participation of all its members would be well on the road to wisdom and happiness. Once again, you will find in these pages news of many exciting events to enjoy during the summer. All have been made possible only by those who choose to give of themselves for their community. Long live the ‘Do Gooders’!

Outstanding Community Service Award

On that note I would like to say a huge thank you to the Lions for nominating Hornsea Community News for their ‘Outstanding Community Service Award’ this year (see page 7). The award came as a total surprise and was particularly special bearing in mind that it came from an organisation which does such fantastic work in the community itself. We all know about the spectacular success of the Lions shop, thanks to the hard work of 28 volunteers, and the many benefits it brings. However, at the annual dinner which I attended, together with Lions from all around the region, I discovered that Hornsea and District Lions are a shining light and the envy of many of their partners. The award is a tribute to everyone who contributes to the paper so I must say thank you and congratulations once again to all of our columnists, advertisers, proof readers, printers and delivery people. Keep up the great work!

Ed