The Power of a Selfless Act

Meg - Wellesley, Massachusetts
Entered on March 8, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Two simple words–thank you.

That’s all I wanted my sister to say after I trudged inside to find shelter from the whipping wind outside. I had just walked all the way to Roche Brothers in a heavy snowstorm to bring home Popsicle sticks for her rock candy experiment. Before I relented to her pleading request, I was comfortably lying on the couch tucked beneath a cozy blanket. Reluctantly, I decided to be generous and get her what she needed. Yet despite my kindness, she grabbed the bag out of my hand and sprinted back to her friend when I returned home. Since she was ten at the time, I realize that her abruptness probably shouldn’t have bothered me, because deep down I am sure she appreciated my efforts. But as I sat down on the couch, I couldn’t help but think her response was selfish. What started out as slight annoyance turned into rage. How could she not thank me after I put myself out for her? I deserved some acknowledgement.

A week later my Sunday school teacher unintentionally challenged my need for recognition. We were reading passages from the Bible about Jesus and his acts of generosity to those in need. At the end of class she encouraged us to give a gift without expecting something in return. I thought about this and realized that I was being just as selfish in expecting my sister to appreciate what I did for her. I wondered why, when I give to others, I automatically expect to get something back from them, even if it is as simple as a ‘thank you’. In the end, that attitude does not reflect the spirit of giving.

I discovered that the purest acts of kindness require no acknowledgement.

So, today, I challenge myself to commit acts of kindness without expecting a pay back. I feel it is my responsibility to thank people after they do something for me, but I try to let it go when others do not respond the same way. Once, when I paid for my friend’s lunch, she said nothing to me after she sat down with her meal at our table. That knee-jerk feeling of resentment returned. I did not want to let her silence to bother me but it was difficult to just to let it roll off my back. I will admit I was rather relieved when in between bites she said, “Oh, thanks for paying for me by the way.”

It is not always easy to think and act this way but when I do, there is no greater satisfaction and peace of mind.