Rather, my mother and father, who shared leadership of the same Beaver Scout troop, insisted that I would be joining them. I balked.
I protested that I wasn’t good with kids, that I was too busy. No matter.
Every Thursday night, I was to spend an hour running around a gymnasium with twelve five-to seven-year-olds. Being a Beaver Scout leader was exhausting. I’d come home after meetings and collapse on the couch.
But surprisingly, I liked it. Running around screaming with five-year-olds released my inner wild thing. I found that I identified with the introverts in the pack, and the first time I comforted a weeping, shy child, I felt both humbled and strong.
When I danced with them, uninhibited, I laughed until my shoulders hurt. I helped them, yes. I put ice on head bumps, taught them to limbo, and sang dopey campfire songs in a falsetto.
But at the same time, in an unintentional, beautiful way, I was also helped. There are lots of theories floating around regarding altruism: that we who practice altruism expect eventual reciprocity; that we’re more altruistic toward our relatives, because helping our kind will pass on our genes; that it makes us feel better about ourselves; that we do it so that we rise in the social hierarchy by rising in the esteem of our peers. But it turns out that there’s a simpler explanation – it makes us happy.
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014