Column: Helping others, helping yourself to a second helping of fun

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Aug. 10, 2009

I’m always impressed by those who go out of their way to help others.

In today’s Chronicle, reporter Eric Schelkopf writes about 14-year-old Geneva teen Jacob Haas, who went way out of his way to help others – all the way to Canada, in fact.

Haas and other member of Boy Scout Troop 37 raised money to help fight diabetes – which Haas has – by bicycling almost 750 miles to Ontario, Canada.

The group would have gone on the adventure trip anyway. But rather than just having a good time with the boys, these guys decided to do something good for others, as well.

These stories always affect me because they make me realize how much more I can do to help my fellow man, as well. I haven’t done nearly enough volunteer work in my life. The last time I did anything remotely on the scale of what Haas and the other members of Boy Scout Troop 37 did was when I went on a mission trip to Jamaica when I was in my early teens.

We helped build and fix homes. We ran Vacation Bible Schools for the kids. We generally tried to do good. (It’s also the only time in my life that I dressed up as a clown. I’m not exactly sure how that helped the citizens of Jamaica, but there I was, surrounded by orphans, in big red shoes and a fuzzy nose. Volunteerism is good, but it comes at a steep and/or weird price sometimes.)

Some philosophers and psychologists say there is no such thing as perfect altruism – that we do good things simply and only because it makes us feel good to do so. We’re wired to feel self-righteous pleasure when we help others, they say.

Well, I’m no philosopher, but to paraphrase Epicurus as well as those in attendance at Woodstock – “if it feels good, do it.” (Though, we are talking strictly about helping others here. I’m not endorsing hedonism. This is a family newspaper, folks.)

We should feel good when we help others. There’s no reason to feel like a martyr when helping your neighbor.

There’s a certain idea that you have to go out of your way to be a Good Samaritan, but Haas and the other members of his Boy Scout troop remind us that there’s no reason why we can’t help others while doing the things we enjoy.

And who knows? By helping others at the same time we’re doing an activity we normally enjoy, we might be deriving even more pleasure from it.

Now, if I could just figure out how to help others while playing video games. I doubt, however, that even those sage philosophers of Woodstock could help me with that question.

EDITOR’S NOTES:

Send us your photos: Just wanted to remind everyone that we accept reader photos for our Neighbors section, which comes out on Friday, and our Sports Neighbors section, which comes out on Saturday. You can e-mail photos to neighbors@kcchronicle.com.

Reader recipes: We also still want reader recipes from our readers to put in our Taste section. You can e-mail your favorite recipe to me at jgrace@kcchronicle.com. It might even give me an idea on what to make when it’s my turn in the week to cook. I simply don’t think I can get away with hot dogs twice in a row.

Joe Grace is the editor of The Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

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