Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do the Right Thing

By Susan Sey

It's the holiday season & the heart-warming stories are thick on the ground. Dime a dozen. Can't throw a cat without hitting one.

That sounds bad, doesn't it? Like I'm complaining. (Or advocating cat-throwing.) Like I'm a big enough scrooge to dislike heart-warming stories. I'm not, though. Truly. I love the one where the couple grabs a bite to eat on their way out to Christmas shopping and ends up slipping their gift money to a hard-luck waitress.

The one where the little old man comes up $20 short on his grocery bill and the lady behind him covers it while he's patting his pockets? Love it.

The one where you zoom up to the drive-thru window to spend $4 you can't afford on a latte you desperately need only to find the person in front of you paid for your drink, too? I love that one.

And don't get me started on that song about the Christmas shoes. It's as bad as the Maxwell House commercials where the kid comes home from college or (god help my tear ducts) the military. In uniform. I weep. Every time.

So it's not that I have anything against heart-warming stories of people spontaneously doing the right thing. It's just that...well, let me explain.

I had this experience lately where I did the right thing. It was a tough decision, the kind where your head totally knows what the right thing to do is but your heart wants what it wants & there's no talking it down.

I did the right thing anyway. I made the call that deprived my heart of what it wanted but ensured everybody's safety, happiness & well-being. Everybody's except mine. Oh, I was safe and well. I just wasn't happy. My heart wanted what it wanted. My heart pouted. Is still pouting, really.

Which took me by surprise. Because generally when you do the right thing in a situation like this, the endorphins kick in. The "I did the right thing & boy doesn't it feel good" brain chemistry trumps your heart's grumping & whining about being deprived.

In this case, though? No endorphins.

I did the right thing & didn't even get a buzz off the fumes of my own selflessness.

As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps my righteousness high was denied me because I wasn't being selfless. I made the right decision but I was counting on feeling good about myself for having done it. There was a little angle in there for me. (Isn't there always?) I was planning to feel superior to the other people in the equation because they weren't as righteous & selfless as I clearly was.

That, my friends, will not get you an endorphin high.

So I think maybe I need to get my holiday mojo back on. My native good cheer needs a jump start. My heart needs to relearn how to be good and generous and truly giving. Anybody have a story of holiday giving they can share that'll reteach my grinchy old self how to be good and kind again?

36 comments:

Helen said...

Is he coming back to the heat here in Oz
Have Fun
Helen

Helen said...

Susan

I do love your posts LOL of course you are good and kind we all are especially if you write romance novels to keep all of us readers happy I mean you gotta have a HEA and that is always one thing that will lift the spirits and make you feel good.

As for a holiday giving story I don't have any at the moment I have just got home from spending the day at the hospital with Hubby he is in a ward now and on the mend except for an infection but we have high hopes of having home for Chrissy and it is 32C here in Sydney today and the air con went on as soon as I walked in the door so the GR can keep cool with me LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Susan Sey said...

Happy roostering, Helen! I know he loves having a day with you!

Glad to hear your hubby is on the mend. My fingers are crossed for a speedy resolution to the infection! Christmas should always be someplace you feel at home & I'm sure the hospital isn't it!

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen.

Hi Susan,
I love hearing heartwarming stories about people lending a helping hand to a stranger. I guess it would be natural to feel a high after helping someone, but I don't have any stories to share right now. I do remember the coffee commercial, but I don't like the Christmas shoes song. It's just too sappy and not my cup of tea.

PinkPeony said...

Hi Susan!

My nephew just turned seven. Since his birthday is close to Christmas and he has a rec room jammed full of all kinds of toys, Wii, air hockey,foosball, etc, etc...she asked him to donate all of the toys he got for his birthday to the Marine's Toys for Tots program and he agreed. After they dropped off the toys, she took him to the VA hospital where she works to meet some veterans and instill in him the true sense of giving. I hope when he's older he understands she was trying to tell him.

Congrats, Helen!

Susan Sey said...

Jane wrote: I don't like the Christmas shoes song. It's just too sappy and not my cup of tea.

I know! It's not mine either! That's why I'm always furious when it makes me cry. I feel like I've been manipulated against my better judgment.

Susan Sey said...

Pink Peony wrote: she asked him to donate all of the toys he got for his birthday to the Marine's Toys for Tots program and he agreed.

Oh my gosh, that's a kid you can be proud of. I force my kids to cull the old toys in anticipation of the holiday bounty every year & they do it but they weep all the way to good will.

That's a beautiful story. I can feel my grinchiness falling away as I type. Thanks!

Kirsten said...

Hey Suz, I'm sorry you didn't get the endorphins you wanted. That stinks. :-(

Rather than collect real life stories, maybe you just need to watch some movies. Elf, for example.

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." -Buddy

I think you need to stand on an escalator and sing (poorly but loudly). Or perhaps try the Buddy split on the escalator.

Oh -- and watch Scrooged. That's my tear-jerker. "I get it now! I get it!"

Seriously, I think there's too much pressure to "get" the Christmas spirit. I think when you're busy checking things off lists and getting things DONE, you'll never find it. Ditch the Christmas cards and go for a walk in the snow with the family. I suspect you'll find Christmas there before you find it in a good deed you're supposed to do, or a batch of cookies you don't really want to make.

Louisa Cornell said...

Wish I was with the GR visiting you, Helen! It is FREEZING here! So glad to hear that the hubby is doing better. Keeping you both in my prayers!

Love your posts, Smoov, as they ALWAYS make me think!

I think Kirsten has the right of it. When we do all of those things we are SUPPOSED to do there is always the chance that element of doing it because people expect it and not because you really want to dulls the luster of that supposedly "good deed."

There are times when people hurt my feelings or tick me off or make me feel small or less than everyone else. The toughest thing in the world is to know I have the means to strike back at those people and not do it. Not because rising above is the right thing to do, but because I know being that petty just makes me like those people. I know I should feel a certain amount of righteous pride in how virtuous I am being. Do I? Nope. I'm still ticked off and I grumble about what a pain it is to be honorable. No happy glow from being the better person. Sometimes I just want to hit somebody! LOL

All of my happy Christmas stories this year have to do with animal shelters being helped out. A shelter in Ohio is in really bad shape. They planned to euthanize all of the animals and shut it down, right here before Christmas. People from all over the country are pitching in to prevent it. Animal rescues, individuals and even a celebrity are rallying around these animals. The best part? The first animal to be adopted out of that mess is a 12 year old lab. Senior dogs are hard to adopt, but this old lady found a great home. Instead of sleeping on a cold concrete floor in a shelter with no heat she is sleeping on the bed with a teen-aged boy who already adores her.

A shelter in California with a terrible reputation is being helped in spite of itself. Dogs there are suffering from frostbite so people from all over the country are donating money, blankets and sweaters to keep those animals warm until the situation can be set right.

Susan Sey said...

Kirsten wrote: Ditch the Christmas cards and go for a walk in the snow with the family. I suspect you'll find Christmas there before you find it in a good deed you're supposed to do, or a batch of cookies you don't really want to make.

Amen, sister! And while I'm checking things off my list today, I'm totally going to sing loudly in public. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Louisa wrote: The best part? The first animal to be adopted out of that mess is a 12 year old lab. Senior dogs are hard to adopt, but this old lady found a great home.

that's a wonderful story, Louisa! It was just right for my crotchety frame of mind today. More dog snuggles, more cookies, less grinching!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Helen, he's coming Down Under. Perhaps we should put him in the cricket team! They need some help. Even a rooster might come in handy!

Susan, oh, dear, sounds like you were stuck in a cleft stick there. I say embrace your grinchiness!

Sheree said...

No heart-warming stories from me either. So far, I have avoided the Christmas shoe song, not even looking it up online to see what the fuss is all about.

And what is the deal with the poor cat with antlers? Doesn't that cat look "I will get even, mark my words" or is it just me?

I have to attend a 6-year-old boy's birthday party later today. I'm thinking of bringing a marshmallow blaster (my original present for the boy which got vetoed by his mom) to shoot marshmallows at the kids. Is that Grinch-y of me?

Susan Sey said...

Anna C. wrote: Susan, oh, dear, sounds like you were stuck in a cleft stick there. I say embrace your grinchiness!

I am embracing it, Anna! I'm also embracing cookies, so it's a nice balance. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Sheree wrote: And what is the deal with the poor cat with antlers? Doesn't that cat look "I will get even, mark my words" or is it just me?

Ha! No, that's exactly the look I was going for. That's how I feel these days--like I'm wearing the funny Christmas headgear but my teeth are totally gritted & somebody's going to get bitten soon.

On the other hand, as I said to Anna, I self-medicating with Christmas cookies so things are coming along. Everything looks better with a sugar rush.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

"...And some say, well, some say that his heart grew three sizes that day..."

Grins.

Susan, I totally hear you on the selfless endorphins. Sometimes that is all that makes me, against all selfish instinct, do the right thing. Sigh.

As to holiday stories, there are a lot.

I saw a mom arguing with her kids on the way into the grocery store. We both walked passed the bell ringing Salvation Army kettle guy. The mom ignored him in favor of arguing with her little girl.

The little girl stopped arguing, when she met the bell-ringer's eyes. She whispered (a kid whisper carries, so I heard this, of course) "Does that man need help, Mom? Why does he look lost?"

I didn't think the guy looked lost, just bored, but kids, they know this stuff. The mom muttered something and we all trooped thorugh the doors into the grocery.

Happens that I came out, having broken a $20 so I could put something into the kettle, right behind the same mom and her two kids. The little girl made it to the kettle before me, handed the guy a $5 and said, "I hope you find what you lost."

Now I have no idea who this child is, or what this man lost, but I'm thinkin' she hit it dead on, because when she went on (no longer arguing with mom), and I stepped up, the guy was wiping away tears.

Now in a good Hollywood version, I would have been moved to say something poignant or important or at least, theatrical.

All I could do, in the face of his tears was mumble Merry Christmas, and Bless you, when the man sneezed.

Still...

One of my favorite Bible verses is "Forget not to entertain strangers for thereby you may entertain angels, unawares."

Maybe I got to witness an angel, at the Giant Grocery Store.

You never know. :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Helen! Congrats on the Chook keeping you company. He can do the right thing - behave - when he wants and needs to, so I hope he'll behave for you today. :>

You need laughter and a big hug (He's good for both) in relief that hubby's on the mend.

He's in our prayers!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan said: I know! It's not mine either! That's why I'm always furious when it makes me cry. I feel like I've been manipulated against my better judgment.

Exactly! I feel the same way. :> Now, I have to say that I love the Maxwell House commercials, even when they make me cry. And they do, every time.

The jewelry commercials, on the other hand, usually irk the heck out of me.

There's a new one, where there are couples getting engaged though, that makes me smile.

Oh, and the one where the soldier and his wife and son are talking via computer. The soldier says the son was his "wingman" on getting a present, since he was deployed and far away. The boy presents a diamond necklace, the wife gets all teary, the boy beams...yeah.

Sniffle. That one gets to me.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Kirsten said:
Oh -- and watch Scrooged. That's my tear-jerker. "I get it now! I get it!"


I love this movie. I really do. ALong with the Muppet Christmas Carol, I love it.

And the grinch. I can quote the majority of the Grinch's story, both book form and Disney. HEehee. And no, I won't do it here. *I heard that sigh of relief!*

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan said: Amen, sister! And while I'm checking things off my list today, I'm totally going to sing loudly in public. :-)

Please, do tell us WHERE so we can come. And take pictures. And video.

It'll go viral on the web and amuse us all.

Speaking of viral, have ya'll seen the You Tube video of the "spontaneous" Hallelujah Chorus at the big Macy's in Philadephia? They call it a Random Act of Culture. Snork. Evidentily, the PHilly Macy's has this monster Wannamaker organ. They play it for the crowd. Huge crowd....suddenly, everyone bursts into song. Brilliant!

It'll set you right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp_RHnQ-jgU

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Sheree said: I'm thinking of bringing a marshmallow blaster (my original present for the boy which got vetoed by his mom) to shoot marshmallows at the kids. Is that Grinch-y of me?

Bwah-ha-ha! I love it! My kids would adore it.

Then again, I wouldn't have vetoed it, either...

jo robertson said...

Nice, reflective post, Susan. I do like those heart-warming, NOT sentimental, stories. The best ones for me are the times when my grandchildren sacrifice something they'd normally get and freely give it to someone more needy.

Makes you feel like you've done a good job parenting and grandparenting.

Joan said...

Susan!!!

Where did you get the picture of Grayson's reaction to my Christmas tree!!!!!

Aiya....

Actually, he's trying to chew on it more though right now, he's curled up on the comfy tree skirt, a little bundle of sweetness....till he decides he HAS to help Mom bake cookies!!!!

Ahem,

Louisa, your storys about the shelters take on a whole new meaning for me this year. I want to adopt everything I see (including the most adorable set of beagle mixes that look beagle-ish but have the solid cream color of a yellow lab...and I don't do dogs)

And OMG Jeanne.....I'm wiping tears, sniffling, busting to go put more money in the kettle. It's good to know that that Mom "got it" somewhere in the pasta aisle...and what a gift that little girl's spirit is to him AND you!

Sniff, now I gotta go sing carols or something....

Cricket! That Baby Jesus is NOT a chew toy!!! Drop it!!!

Christine Wells said...

Susan, I think you're being too hard on yourself! It's difficult not to feel a little resentful sometimes because as a mother you give up so much more than almost anyone else in the equation. Sometimes you really need to be selfish because no one else is going to give you permission to do that thing your heart desires. Perhaps it was the basic injustice of the whole thing that got to you, more than the fact you didn't want to give up the thing you really wanted. I know, I'm all about tough love!

We Australians aren't terribly into 'heartwarming' so I can't help you with any sappy Christmas stories, I'm afraid. We're totally cynical, especially if the story is meant to sell us something. I can recommend Christmas carols to lift your mood, though!

Congrats Helen!

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: Maybe I got to witness an angel, at the Giant Grocery Store.

Oh, Jeanne, now *I'm* wiping away the tears. Oh, I can feel my grinchy heart lightening up! Thanks for that!

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: Oh, and the one where the soldier and his wife and son are talking via computer. The soldier says the son was his "wingman" on getting a present, since he was deployed and far away. The boy presents a diamond necklace, the wife gets all teary, the boy beams...yeah.

OMG, I haven't seen that one yet! It sounds like just my speed. I will have to sit my bottom in the TV watching chair until it comes on.

I'm prepared to make this sacrifice in the name of the Christmas spirit, you understand. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: The best ones for me are the times when my grandchildren sacrifice something they'd normally get and freely give it to someone more needy.

Oh, that is beautiful, when kids add it all up & decide to be generous. It's heartwarming, & I'm sure it comes from good grandparenting. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: Where did you get the picture of Grayson's reaction to my Christmas tree!!!!!

Oh, a little birdie told me. :-)

Joanie also wrote: Cricket! That Baby Jesus is NOT a chew toy!!! Drop it!!!

I see the holiday spirit runneth over at your house. Pat the kitties for me, will you?

Susan Sey said...

Christine wrote: We're totally cynical, especially if the story is meant to sell us something. I can recommend Christmas carols to lift your mood, though!

Oh, that always helps! I spent this afternoon with the Indigo Girls' Christmas album, & their version of Gloria in excelsis deo is one of my very favorites. I highly recommend it.

Joan said...

I see the holiday spirit runneth over at your house.

Yes it does Susan....

Grayson just took the Three Wise Men through the desert...yanno...the one with LOGS!!! :-0

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: Grayson just took the Three Wise Men through the desert...yanno...the one with LOGS!!! :-0

Oh, THAT one. Yes, I know the one.

Well, the wisemen rode camels. This sort of behavior can't be new to them. :-)

catslady said...

Not a story but a song and a book - The Gift (sung by Garth Brooks) and The Littlest Angel - both have me sobbing every year.

I always figure if I know I'm doing a good deed it's not as good as if I did the good deed without even thinking I was doing a good deed - does that make sense lol.

Nancy said...

Helen, congrats on the bird! I'm glad Hubby is doing better, and I hope he'll be home soon.

Susan, I have no heartwarming stories to revive your mojo. Sorry I can't be more help. The boy is in the kitchen making peppermint cupcakes for Cupcake Club at school, with help from his dad, but that's about the extent of our holiday festiveness so far. The dh and I finish exams this week, and we're hoping to be more engaged with the season then. Like, you know, putting up a tree. Something of that sort.

Basically, I'm urging that we just chill out and enjoy the holiday. This is the last Christmas the boy will be already here, not coming home from somewhere far away, and I want to focus on that, not obsess over details.

But you have young kids, and I'm sure that somewhere along the way, as you prepare to celebrate with them, the mojo will come back.

And I don't like sappy, manipulative holiday songs, TV commercials, whatEVER, either. Just sayin'.

flchen1 said...

Hugs, Susan! I don't have a heart-warming holiday story at the moment, but just wanted to say hats off to you for doing the right thing. I know that sometimes we want the reward for doing it--I do wonder whether that feel-good reward kind of cancels out the good karma ;) You know, since I've gotten something out of it, it isn't as if I was being selfless and all that!

Anyway, my incoherent less-than-deep thoughts...

Hope that positive mojo sneaks back up on you when you least expect :)

Maybe you'll find a forgotten Twix bar in the back of the pantry, or a $20 in your pants pocket or something :D

Laurie Faelan said...

I have a writer friend who took in a down-on-his-luck family friend and his children for the holidays so the kids wouldn't have to go to foster care. Her husband gave him a job and she takes care of his three kids while he works. She's made enormous sacrifices.

I feel a bunch of emotions - inspired by her, proud to know her, and selfishly sorry that she doesn't have time to hang out talking writing and brainstorming with me (how sad is that?!)

In a small way, I do get the pouty feelings you're having. I managed to save up for a MacBook Pro that I really wanted and ended up giving the money to my daughter who needed it much more than I needed that laptop. I'd do it again without a thought but I still feel a bit sad when I think about it. We do what's right but isn't it normal to have a few mixed feelings? We are human after all.

Sing Christmas carols - always makes me feel better.

Pat Cochran said...

Every year our parish hosts a Christmas gathering for the residents of a group of shelters & halfway houses here in Houston. This gathering is funded with donations from families & indivi- duals in the parish. Foods & gifts are donated by the parishoners.It
is an expression and example to our
youngsters of how we can share our
blessings with those in need. Yesterday children, youth, and adults shared the afternoon with
some 200 neighbors from throughout
the city.It was a wonderful party!