Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Most Precious Gift

What gives a commodity its value is admittedly not an exact science, though I think most would agree that it is determined by some combination of its rarity and demand. There is one “commodity,” however, that despite the demand for it, cannot be purchased for ourselves: time. The demands on our time are so great that most of us wish we could add hours to our days or days to our weeks. We are a non-stop society, filling our time with the ever-important tasks of life in the modern world. As we all know, at the end of our lives, no matter our wealth or importance, we cannot buy for ourselves more minutes. Much can be said about our temporal limitations, but what strikes me as the most impressive is how some individuals so willingly and generously give of their time to help others.
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I am enrolled in Jurisprudence this semester, and one idea we have explored is the possibility of humanity to act altruistically. Are we really completely self-interested, and hence motivated? I do not think so. Of course we have natural tendencies towards selfishness, but I believe there is goodness in each of us, and that we have the capacity to act in accord with that goodness. I believe this, because I have witnessed kindness and goodness in others. We all have roles to play at work and home, and within those roles, there will be natural obligations on our time. Yet, even with obligation, there are still professors who give time to mentor students and there are still friends who give time to counsel each other. A cynic may argue that an individual acts because he believes there is some benefit to him. Unfortunately, there may never be a satisfactory answer to the cynic, but for me, I choose to believe the motivation of others is altruistic.

In all seasons of life, we are blessed by individuals who, for whatever the reason, care for us and invest in us. In the church-calendar, we are still observing Lent. Whether you observe Lent formally or not, time for quiet contemplation and reflection are always good practice. In the midst of the demands on our time, the stressors of the semester and the difficulties of life, I am humbled to notice that I am not alone. I am grateful for the individuals in my life who model to me the goodness of the human spirit. Without them, my experiences and learning would be greatly diminished.

The artist of the painting imaged in this post said the following of his work:
We all remember a teacher from our childhood who gave us the gift of time and helped us when we needed it. As the years go by, we think of them and become aware of the precious gift they gave to us. We feel an emptiness inside because we want these teachers to know that they made a difference and that they affected our lives forever. But we never told them. My painting, A Gift of Time, is dedicated to all teachers who have given such a gift – my way of saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. – Jim Daly

1 comment:

Josh Fershee said...

Nice post, Kelly. I am not one who believes that all actions are self-motivated, although I admit that sometimes I act because I know it will make me feel better. I suppose, to the extent I feel good about doing something "selfless," it could be argued I am acting solely for my benefit. However, I agree with you that that is not the full story.

There have been far too many people who have gone out of their way for me, personally and professionally, for it to simply be self-interest. Their actions may have made them feel good, but their efforts were too significant for that effort to be fully explained as self-interest. In fact, I count PSU's own Jeff Kahn and Marie Reilly among such folks who done far more for me than self-interest can explain.

Thank you for an nice reminder to keep doing all I can do for my fellow man and woman. Your thoughtful words made my day.