Friday, February 06, 2009

Selfless love

Came across this story in today's Spiritual Wealth by Alexander Green.

Challenging. (Have your hankie ready!)
As a young man, I was a devotee of Ayn Rand.

Reading her philosophical novels "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" strengthened my belief in free markets, individual liberty, personal integrity and the inspirational power of great art.

In particular, Rand's radical independence - she swore that she would never live her life for the sake of another person - seemed downright heroic.

It will come as no surprise, however, that Rand was childless. She also had a reputation for being ill-tempered and egotistical. And she bore grudges. ("She wanted me dead," her former paramour Nathaniel Branden told me over dinner one night.)

Hmm. Perhaps there are other heroes... better ones.

In Soul Food, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman tell the story of an Illinois family whose daughter became ill and was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease.

A search went out for a compatible blood donor but none could be found. Then it was discovered that her six-year-old brother shared her blood type. The boy's mother and doctor sat down with him to ask if he would be willing to donate blood to save the life of his sister.

To their surprise, he did not answer right away. He needed some time to think about it. After a few days, he came back to his mother and announced he would do it.

As Kornfield and Feldman write,
The following day the doctor brought both children to his clinic and placed them on cots next to each other. He wanted them to see how one was helping the other. First he drew a half pint of blood from the young boy's arm. Then he moved it over to his sister's cot and inserted the needle so her brother could see the effect. In a few minutes color began to pour back into her cheeks.

Then the boy motioned for the doctor to come over. He wanted to ask a question, very quietly.

Will I start to die right away?' he asked.

You see, when he had been asked to donate his blood to save his sister's life, his six-year-old mind understood the process literally.
He believed he was trading his life for his sister's. No wonder he needed a few days to mull it over.

In today's society, selflessness is often regarded as nave or idealistic, an outdated concept promoted by busybodies and do-gooders.

But those who focus solely on themselves have their own set of problems. For starters, many of them don't look terribly happy. . . .
Read the rest of One of the Best Secrets of Life.
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