Be Good, for Goodness Sake

the Princess

Principessa

The Highest Level of Do-Gooderism

Dong Good Deeds

My daughter, Principessa, is 19. At college, as part of a philanthropy drive at her sorority, she signed up to be a bone marrow donor. One in five hundred registry members eventually goes on to donate bone marrow. It’s not easy, painless or without risks. It’s the kind of thing that would make me say, “What? You want to put needles in my hips and suck out my bone marrow? No, thank you. But for this child, who not only like to do the right thing, but the good thing, it was an easy yes.

She didn’t have to wait long for the call. And when it came, they wanted her NOW. It seems a baby, somewhere in the U.S., was born without an immune system, and they wanted Principessa to share hers. And so she did. And it was not physically easy to do so. She had to drive an hour and a half away for meetings and tests and for the actual marrow sucking. She had to miss a bit of school. She had to listen to hours of information on how wrong things could go for her, and she did it without questioning her decision. A child needed her marrow. What was there to think about.

Her mother and I were proud that this young lady was willing to do this. Parenting can go horribly wrong, even when parents do everything right, so her mother and I realize what a gem we have in this one–that not only does she refrain from doing bad, stupid and illegal stuff (as far as we know…) but she does really good, smart, legal and caring things like this.

She felt physically bad after the donation. She had pain in her hips for more than a week. But she was happy with what she had done. In a year, personal information about donor and recipient would be exchanged if both parties agreed. She looked forward to that.

Last week, the bone marrow donor agency got in contact with her. The baby had died.

Principessa has an amazing attitude about this. We all want acknowledgement of our good deeds. We want to feel that what we did, what we gave, what we sacrificed, is appreciated. But at the highest level of doing good, it’s irrelevant. Sure, doing good is good no matter what, but if you require a thank you, then it’s not as pure of an act as it could be.

A Friend’s Story of Do-Gooderism

I have a friend whose clash with doing good went like this:

“So I’m boarding the 7:30 train and on my way up the stairs I see a little boy’s shoe wedged on one of the stairs. I take note of the size and color and make it my mission to find that little guy so I can tell his parents where the shoe is. I advance one car and after looking at all the feet of the many children on this train, I see the boy with one shoe. I tell his parents I know where his shoe is and it’s too hard to explain so I escort his mother back one car to retrieve the shoe. Mission accomplished! I feel good about this and walk away to find my seat. Then I realize what is bugging me. She didn’t say thanks. And the father, when I passed him heading to the next car, gave me a simple nod. Hmm. A vocalized “thank you” would have been nice. Am I just tired from a long day or is it OK to expect an audible thank you?”

My reply:

“Of course a thank you would have been nice, but needing it diminishes the purity of your act of love for your fellow man and makes it about your ego. You were not motivated to do this good deed by the thought of an eventual thank you, and being upset about not getting one gives away your power. You are better than that.”

Then, for some reason, I added:

I went to a Bret Michaels concert last night. When he started playing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” I yelled at the stage, “Bret, roses don’t have thorns! They have prickles! And not every rose has prickles! Do the right thing and sing “Most Roses Have Prickles!!” (I realize this is not a very good song title.) Much to the delight of everyone else there, he ignored me, and I went home miffed. Then my wife slapped me in the ear and said, “Having expectations of strangers is a sure road to disappointment and gives strangers control over how you feel.” While that is also not a good song title, I changed my tune….

My Story of Do-Gooderism

When I was a teenager, I found and returned three wallets in two days. This was an astounding coincidence to me, but even more unbelievable was how the wallet owners responded.

The first one, I don’t specifically remember, but I know I did not receive a thank you or a monetary reward. For the second one, I was working in a retail store and found a wallet in my department. I pocketed it and planned on bringing it to the customer service desk the next time I was near. Then I saw a frantic looking woman searching the floor in an aisle in my department. She said, “Did you see a wallet? It’s blue and–” I cut her off by whipping the wallet out of my pocket. She snatched it and rushed off without another word.

The third one really got to me. I found a fat wallet in a booth at McDonald’s. It was filled with credit cards and pictures and over $200 in cash. I looked at the driver’s license to see where the owner lived. I was on my way to my friend’s house, and this guy’s house was in the opposite direction. I took it there anyway.

I rang the doorbell to the security door on the man’s condominium building. I spoke into the speaker.

“I found Harvey Bergfeld’s wallet.”

“What?”

“I found Harvey Bergfeld’s wallet.”

“Who is this?”

“I found Harvey Bergfeld’s wallet. Is Harvey Bergfeld there?

“I don’t want any wallets.”

“No, I found Harvey Bergfeld’s wallet. He lost his wallet. At McDonald’s.”

[Away from speaker] “Harvey, did you lose your wallet?…Where is your wallet?…Do you have your wallet?…There’s someone at the door saying he has your wallet….[in speaker] Okay. Come in.”

The female voice on the speaker buzzed me in. I stepped inside, then realized that she did not tell me what unit they were in (only names were by the doorbells).

I stood there and waited. You want the wallet, come and get the damn wallet, I thought. I wasn’t about to search the building.

Finally, a woman on the first floor stepped out into the hallway and waved me toward her. By the time I got to the door, she had retreated inside, as if she were afraid. This angered me. Did she think that the guy who found her husband’s wallet also happened to be a robber who was not content with an easy $200 and would come to their condo to rob them?

She took the wallet, looked inside it, and called to her husband, “Do you have any singles?”

It seems the bills in the wallet that I went out of my way to return to them were too large to give as a reward. She handed me the two dollars her husband gave her and reflexively, I–not her–said, “Thank you.”

I had just saved them at least $200 and the aggravation of replacing everything in that wallet, and I thanked her.

I was mad at the time, but now I realized that it shouldn’t matter what the response is to your good deeds. You do them because they are the right things to do, because you are an ethical, honest person who cares about others, because it’s part of who you are to do the right thing. The thanks and the rewards are nice add-ons, but when they’ve become necessities, you’ve diminished your good deed, and by extension, yourself.

My daughter knows this, much better than I did at her age. She would have liked to meet the child whose life she saved some day, but it was nothing more than a nice add-on to her. She wishes her contribution could have helped a baby live, but she takes satisfaction in the knowledge that she gave a baby a chance.

She did something else that she doesn’t even know. She provided me with the inspiration to be a better person.

Sometimes you teach your children. Sometimes your children teach you.

Finally, the Birth

peeing there

Sometimes, you should just hold it.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 4

Man Witnessing Birth Experiences Bladder Crisis

“My pelvis is separating!”

10:30 PM

It’s tub time. Katrina’s contractions are increasing in intensity. The NP has been called and is on the way over (she lives across the street from the hospital). The nurses are filling the tub and waterproofing the IV, and I am setting up the video camera and putting on a CD, getting in the way of the important work at every possible moment.

Katrina steps into the tub, naked but for the plastic bag she wears on her right hand to secure the IV. The NP arrives and kneels next to the side of the tub to check the action. The lights are dimmed. I assume a seat on a rolling chair behind Katrina’s left shoulder. There is not enough room for me to wheel my chair directly to her left, so I lean forward and grasp her hand.

When Katrina has a contraction, there are words of instruction and encouragement. When the contraction ends, there is silence. We wait for the next one. Katrina has slipped into another world in an attempt to manage the pain. The jets are turned on, and Katrina gets a little more relief. She is glad to be in the tub. It is providing some relief. From time to time, the NP goes deep-sea fishing to stretch things out down there. I am getting increasingly uncomfortable, and I have to pee really badly. Continue Reading…

Get Me a Comfortable Chair, My Wife Is Having a Baby!

recliner

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 3

The Birth Evening

5:48 PM

“Don’t you want to go get dinner?” Katrina asks me.

“I’m not really that hungry.”

“I think you should go get dinner and bring it back up here to eat.”

Katrina is starving, and is not being offered anything of substance from the nursing staff. She wants to eat off my plate without my being able to complain for the last time.

I get a surprisingly good plate of pasta from the hospital cafeteria, and Katrina is ripping through it.

“Just give me one more bite,” she says for the eighth time.

7:10 PM

Katrina is doing her math, and she doesn’t like her answers. Progress is slow to nonexistent, and Katrina does not want to start the Pitocin drip at midnight, deliver early in the morning, and be wiped out tomorrow. If she’s going to need the drip eventually, she might as well get it now. The nurse/practitioner, who lives across the street from the hospital, is called.

I head out for another refill of water. This time I notice that there is a touch strip on the machine. When your cup touches the strip, water comes out. Suddenly, every trip to the water dispenser replays in my mind. From the beginning, I had been pushing the spout housing, which has nothing to do with the dispensing of water. The two nurses who I stood between must have thought I was an idiot.

7:30 PM

The Nurse Practitioner gives phone approval for the drip. The nurse repeatedly unsuccessfully jabs Katrina, trying to get the needle into a vein, but she cannot do it. She moves to Katrina’s other hand, and finally gets it in. We start walking the halls again, wheeling the drip along with us and trying not to get tangled up.

Back in the room, Katrina asks the nurse if I can have a better chair from one of the other rooms. The nurse hauls in an overstuffed recliner from the room across the hall, and I am in heaven. I fully recline it for only a second, afraid that in five seconds, I could be sound asleep.

A new shift of nurses has come on, and a new, more sympathetic nurse gives Katrina a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Every once in a while now, Katrina gets what she calls a “good” contraction. I am still timing them, and there is still no pattern.

I am still useless.

Next: Finally, the Birth

Birth Day Part 2

hungry hungry hippo

Hunger does strange things to a pregnant woman.

The Birth Story

Birth Day Part 2

Birthing Boredom

“Maybe we can bore this baby out of you.”

12:06 PM

Lunchtime. Katrina’s lunch consists of water. Thinking ahead, I packed two sandwiches and an orange, and placed them in the refrigerator in the hallway. Next to the refrigerator are a sink and an ice and water dispenser. I attempt to refill my water bottle, but cannot figure out how to get water out of the machine. I place my bottle below the spout and press the guard piece that surrounds the spout, but nothing happens. I press it again, and I get water all over my hand. I readjust the bottle, press the spout guard and intermittently get water into my bottle.

Katrina is tired from walking, but walk we must, so it’s back to the halls. Katrina’s left hip cracks with every step. I am still timing every contraction, and they still show no signs of entering a pattern. And they are weakening.

“I’m glad we’re the only ones walking the halls,” I say. “If there were another couple, the first time we’d pass them, we’d have to say something pithy like, ‘They’ve got you walking, too, huh?’ or, ‘I’m glad to see we’re not the only ones who need a jumpstart.’

“Then the next time you see them there’s an awkward ‘hi.’ Then the next time, a nod. And from then on, you try to avoid eye contact altogether.”

Katrina says nothing. She just keeps walking and cracking. Continue Reading…

Birth Day

The Birth Story

birth

I know he’s in there. (artist’s rendering; not an actual photo)

Birth Day

Husband of Birthing Mother Complains about Being Uncomfortable

We dropped the girls off at their father’s house and headed over to the NP’s office (which is attached to the hospital). She determined that Katrina was dilated enough to break her water, so we walked over to the hospital to do just that. But the door we had used when we took the siblings’ birthing class was available by electronic pass only, so we had to take the elevator down one floor, walk to another elevator, take it up one floor, then negotiate the labyrinthine halls to find the birthing center, all while loaded down like pack mules with Katrina’s bag, the baby’s diaper bag, my bag, the still camera bag, the video camera bag and a tripod.

We were shown to the birthing suite at the end of the hall. The whirlpool tub was big, and out in the open, unlike the tub we had seen on our tour, which was in the bathroom. I felt like we lucked out, until, that is, I saw that the only chair in the room was a wooden rocker. The tour suite had a big, padded recliner, a chair I would be happy to have in my (unfinished) home. But this thing was just plain, hard wood. Continue Reading…

The Fraud that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

not quite pink

Is as interested in breast cancer prevention as the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

The Fraud that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Get the Pink Out!

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so Americans are awash in a greater amount of hypocrisy than usual. My teenage daughters have bought into the breast cancer awareness hype. They buy T-shirts and other pink clothing accessories and wear them to football and basketball games to show their school solidarity and their feverish support of breast cancer awareness. The student body decides to have a “Pink Out” for a certain game, and all the students wear pink. They are joined by the NFL, who sport pink game wear all month. Even the referees’ whistles are pink. What few seem to ask, however, is: Is there anyone in this country who is not aware of breast cancer?

“Well, that’s just what it’s called. It’s more about encouraging women to have mammograms and raising funds for research to find a cure.”

Okay, let’s take a look at that. And, as in the case of most investigation, to get to the real truth, we’ll have to follow to money. Continue Reading…

My Baby Will Be Born Tomorrow

Imminent Induction

It wasn’t the last time Junior would defy his father.

The Birth Story

We’re Going In After Him

Friday, February 24, 2006 4:39 PM

Well, this is it. My last day with life as I know it. Tomorrow, we induce. Tomorrow my whole world flips upside-down, never to return to right side-up. It’s probably more accurate to say that we will be creating a new right side-up. We are three days past the due date, and Junior is refusing to come out of his womb, irking my always impatient wife.

“He’s your son,” says Katrina.

“What does that mean?”

“He won’t come out. He’s stubborn. Just like you.” Continue Reading…

Repulsive Parenting Headlines of the Day

Feel Good About Your Parenting

Peter

Experienced at doing it wrong.

Man Reads Parenting Headlines; Becomes Depressed

Is parenting getting you down? Then read some headlines from today (just today!) about parents who are doing it waaaaay wrongerer than you:

Police: Mom injects teen daughter and her boyfriend with heroin

Mom, beau plead not guilty in alcohol-in-IV death

Mom charged after baby left in hot car while shopping

Mom who tried to kill daughter gets 10-22 years

This is just one day in my Yahoo News feed. The other stories are not any cheerier. I didn’t read the stories because I don’t want them to bring me down more than the headlines already have. But this is the world we live in. Parents kill or try to kill or forget to not kill their children and the media report it and people like me read it and assume that this kind of behavior is way more prevalent than it really is. It is unfortunate for all of us that good parenting doesn’t make the news.

So what are we to do? Well, I, for one, look at these headlines and think, “I may be doing it wrong. I may have forgotten to sign my son’s assignment notebook and now he won’t get a gold star for the day, but at least I’m doing it better than those people. At least if I come at parenting from a place of love, I won’t mess the kids up that badly.”

Some days, that’s all you can hope for. And some days, that’s enough.