I believe in selflessness. This did not come easily for me, someone once labeled egotistical by her sister. My belief of selflessness is still under construction, and I still have a lot more to learn. I am trying to make this a way of life and I believe that only then I will achieve true happiness.
This past spring break I came to realize that selflessness is an important factor for everyone. While retracing and reliving the Civil Rights Movement through a program called Sojourn to the Past, I was able to learn about people who gave up their lives just to effect changes in society. Learning about their everyday struggles made me realize that sometimes I complain for no reason. And that maybe I was somewhat egotistical. They were people of my age willing to fight “non-violently” for what was right. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things and who were able to stay true to their belief–the belief in selflessness. After reading Walking with the Wind by John Lewis, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, I was surprised that he never wanted to be photographed and tried to stay out of pictures because he believed that the work he did was more important than a thirty second recognition. Before we met John Lewis, Mr. Steinberg, the trip leader, reminded the group to be courteous and to practice the act of selflessness by saying “remember, it’s not about you.” At first, I took it in as a nice way to say “shut up,” but after meeting the now honorable John Lewis I realize that after all his hard work he deserved our respect and so much more. As I reflect back I realize the different mindset I once had.
When I came back from the trip my biggest test was to see if all the principles I had learned would help me in my everyday life. As a Starbucks partner, I meet all sorts of people. One of our regular customers comes in daily half an hour before closing time to get a refill with a cup that I know isn’t from that day. He kindly asks us to take a newspaper without paying for it and while he is a nice man I never liked his stinginess. One Tuesday I found him at my church waiting to receive food. I felt horrible for thinking so badly of him. To my surprise I was oblivious to see that I had failed horribly. It wouldn’t hurt to give him a refill for fifty cents when we wouldn’t sell the rest of the coffee or the newspapers.
Before my trip I had never really thought about selflessness, I’ll be honest I didn’t really know what the word meant. Now I find myself informing everyone of the word. I have become closer to my faith and I too am trying to effect change in my society because it is the right thing to do. I am not trying to please anyone anymore, I am trying to be myself, but most importantly I am trying to stay true to my belief in selflessness.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.