A new essay by Tricia Gates Brown
I have conflicted feelings about effort. As a young adult, effort was my mantra. And effort, coupled with an adolescent zest to save the world, was perilous. In my early 20s, I stumbled my way through so many “good deeds,” it is painful to look back. The time I began buying food for a physically challenged, low-income woman and her teenaged daughter, then was unable to continue after one month, despite creating an impression of commitment. They welcomed me into their tiny apartment kitchen where I unloaded the groceries I’d brought onto near desolate shelves, feeling awkward as hell. Or the time I invited a homeless youth to family Thanksgiving, then had to un-invite him when someone close to me became enraged by my actions. I wanted to save him, but couldn’t see the limits preordained by my own life chaos. These experiences are among my deepest regrets.
I wanted so badly to think I was a good person, I acted from self-absorption and tone-deafness. People got hurt. I had not learned that being good is not striving to find ways to prove oneself. True helpfulness involves sufficient openness to sense when one is guided to an action, then acting with care and conscientiousness, aware of one’s shadow and potential to be a bumbling ass.
Read it all here.