I asked you all what kinds of Atheist Acts of Altruism you do and I heard some really inspiring examples. To be sure, none of these events happened because someone was an atheist (though it gets mentioned). These are just good people reaching out to strangers.
Church members don’t have a monopoly on doing things like this, even if they sometimes act like they do.
I was working highway construction one night, standing in a road closure, when a car came along with a flat tire. Knowing there was nothing ahead for miles, I waved the woman into the closed area. I changed her tire, using the jack from my truck as she didn’t have one. She told me that it was a good thing god had put me there to help her out. Although I tried, I could not change her mind. I would have had god not give her a flat in the first place.
My wife and I do this quite frequently, though I must admit that while I am an atheist, she is a christian. We lean towards helping soldiers when it is not a situation of need or requested help because we are both ex military. A recent example, we were eating out at Red Lobster, after we had finished our meal and were preparing to pay we noticed a soldier fresh back from Iraq having dinner with his young family as well. We simply asked the waitress to bring us his bill as we were going to pay it as a thank you for his service, we paid bill + tip, asked the waitress not let them know until after we had left, and then immediately left.
I’m a recent Master’s graduate. Inspired by your blog post today, I decided to sit down and email some of my old undergraduate professors and tell them how I was using some of the skills I learned from them. (Most of the emails start with “You were right.”)
I take public transit to work. I buy a monthly pass, but I love keeping a few bus tickets in my wallet to give to random people who lost their transfer, can’t find enough change, etc. When I have the opportunity to give one away, I am on a high for the rest of the day.altruism.
I was at the grocery store, and I watched as two young women with a wheelchair bound young girl, and a baby, checked out in front of me. They had one item. It was a box of brown hair dye. The cashier just shook her head after multiple attempts at swiping the card. The group politely left the store, empty-handed. I asked the cashier what was going on and she explained that this group had a really rough day and had gone through a lot of trouble navigating with the wheelchair and the baby. They spent all that time and the card couldn’t even go through.
I considered purchasing the box of hair dye, so I could give it to them. I wasn’t sure I should, though. I mean, what kind of family goes to the store together for a single box of hair dye? Shouldn’t they be grocery shopping to feed the kids?
But I’m not one to judge. Besides, this might really make her day. I bought it, then ran into the parking lot, hoping to still find the group. The young woman cried when I gave it to her. We talked for a few minutes. She is only a year older than me, (19) she is new to town, and she is pregnant. I gave her my cell phone number and I told her she can call me anytime, and I would show her around town or just be there if she needed help.
One reader took a vacation on her own and stopped at a rest area on the highway when this happened:
I was thinking, at the time, that I’d gotten out a whole lot of cash for the trip that I hadn’t actually needed, when a slightly portly, middle-aged black man approached me. He had grey in his beard and was wearing a faded Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts. He introduced himself as a pastor of a church in Sacramento and pointed to an SUV with a similarly middle-aged woman inside of it and asked me if I knew how far it was to Phoenix, and if I thought they could make it there on what was left of their gas (something like 90 miles worth). He told me that they were on their way to St. Joseph’s Hospital there for a kidney transplant, his credit card was already $4,000 over it’s limit and he showed me a spot on his arm where they had to stop at a hospital in Palm Springs to get stitches removed. He was very friendly, and finally got around to asking me if I would donate a tank full of gas to him and his wife.
Now, I’ve been approached by beggars at gas stations before. I know how they act and what they look like and he didn’t fit the bill at all. He gave me very specific information (I knew of the hospital, now having family in Phoenix), and the big old bulging flesh of his arm was very real, as were the marks where the stitches were. I didn’t ask him what his arm had to do with his kidney, but it didn’t really matter to me. My thought process was that if this guy was begging for a tank of gas at a gas station in the middle of the desert (and a vicious wind storm to boot), then he needed my cash far more than I did. I pulled out my wallet and, instead of just giving them a tank of gas, I gave them almost all of my cash. The man was overjoyed when I gave him the money and kept blessing me. He asked me what church I went to, and said that he’d write the pastor there and tell them this wonderful thing that I did. I didn’t even blink, I just said, “That’s not necessary. Good luck and get well.” Overjoyed, he carried the money off to his wife triumphantly. Me? I finished pumping my gas, went inside, got some snacks and went on my merry way.
Needless to say, I’m inspired by everyone after reading those. I hope I can do something like that soon.
So what have you done for someone else lately?