What is a good deed?
A ‘deed’ is something that is done. So, more than a thought, more than a wish or a prayer. Simple enough, a practical thing. But what is the definition of ‘good’? In this sense, ‘good’ is something done altruistically, for the ‘good’ of someone or something else. From which you do not benefit. Doing something for someone, or something, completely altruistically, you get nothing from it. Which is all well and good, but impossible to actually carry out. It’s not completely altruistic, because I want to feel good by doing good.
Of course I want to feel good from doing something for someone else, but I want that good feeling to be from knowing that they feel good. And I want this month to be a journey, I want to meet people, have new experiences, new encounters. I want my life enriched by this. That’s what I want, I guess. Which all sounds quite selfish really.
This isn’t a political project. As it happens I didn’t vote for the Tories, I voted Labour and I don’t believe the Conservatives have the concerns that I have, I believe the party stands for something that I do not and, like lots of other people, I worry about greed, I worry about benefit sanctions, public services and kindness to other people, I worry that people will be undervalued by this government. And I felt a bit bleak when they were elected. But I also thought: that’s not me, that’s not representative of me. It made me question myself about what I am actually doing to benefit other people, my fellow members of society. That’s where the idea came from. It’s not about big things, it’s about small things too, it’s about acknowledging goodness, as much as doing good things.
Anyhoo, let me tell you about something that happened today. I was out walking a client’s dog (I run a small business walking dogs, boarding small animals and that sort of thing) and I was already running a bit late (I am generally always running a ‘bit’ late) so was hurrying along. I’d set out in the morning with the intention of ruminating on what makes a good deed a good deed and I always find dog walks good for ruminating. So Oscar the puppy and I were wending our way peacefully down a beautiful country lane and the sun was shining and it was very lovely indeed when I heard behind me the unmistakable sound of something delicate and soft, hitting tarmac, which is notorious for being hard and uncompromising.
It was a lady, lying face down in the road. I had that funny moment where what I was seeing made no sense, that someone should be lying in the road, that someone should be resting in the road face down, and then I realised she’d had some sort of accident. We went to investigate and I asked if she was alright, she’d started to sit up a bit and had her hand over her mouth and nose. She didn’t speak, she just moved her hand away from her face and there was blood all over her face. It was running off her falling in great gobs of deep red onto the hot tarmac. I offered straight away to phone an ambulance, but she didn’t want one, so I ran and knocked on a door opposite and grabbed a towel to give to her and used the lady’s phone to call her husband. I’ll not forget the way he answered the phone, he obviously expected to hear his wife so when I said ‘hello is that *****?’ (those are identity masking asterisks, not sweary asterisks, in case you thought I’d just rung him and called him a dickhead or some such) there was a huge pause, into which I know a million awful scenarios were pouring. He would come straight away. I knew he would have that cold, sick feeling. I hadn’t had time to talk too much, just to tell him his wife had had an accident. There was another lady and a man there soon enough and I couldn’t stay too long. They stayed with the woman until her husband arrived. He passed me in his car as I was walking on, his face was white, his eyes were looking into the faces of everyone he passed to see if they knew where his wife was. She’d been running, she’d tripped on her shoe lace. It was one of those accidents that anyone could have.
After the adrenaline had died away I realised that that was an example of a good deed: I didn’t have to stop, I could’ve carried on walking I suppose, I got no benefit from helping the lady, so yes, i guess it was completely altruistic. I did have a good feeling afterwards, but I actually don’t know anyone that wouldn’t have stopped to help. I hope I never know anyone that wouldn’t stop to help.
I did another, smaller good deed today. Again, whilst out walking, first thing this morning, I came across a caterpillar curled into a ball in the middle of the road. I took a twig, picked it up and put it on the verge. It was much less dramatic, there was no blood, no husband rushing from work, there was no sudden shock, it was just a tiny, seemingly insignificant act. I didn’t think about the caterpillar again. But I suppose, to the caterpillar, it was the difference between life and death, it would surely not have made it to the other side of the road. Perspective is all.
So two good deeds done already and we are not even anywhere near June, yet. Please do send any poems that you think are uplifting, hopeful, battling, strong, positive, loving, generous, touching, moving…the idea is to represent the best of what makes us, us. In the mean time, here’s a bloody lovely poem by Douglas Dunn, you can even hear him read it, here:
Removal on Terry Street
On a squeaking cart, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus US Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.
That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.