A Police Officer friend told me once that we never truly know who people are behind closed doors and they know that because we go into those private spaces in our homes and on our computers and phones and those on the outside never know exactly who we are in private. A successful doctor who is a hoarder. A business person whose house is littered with illegal drug paraphilia. A pillar of the church who …..well you see my point.
We are different when no one is watching and maybe that’s the time when who we are as a human being is best scrutinized.
These days there are cameras everywhere and it seems everything we do is scrutinized, but unless you are up to something you shouldn’t do, you probably don’t think about those cameras. Lucky for us cameras often capture someone doing something extraordinary that they may never talk about. Take for instance the man who on a brutally cold winter day passes a stray dog. The dog has no protection against the elements and is huddled into a tiny ball on the sidewalk in a futile effort to keep warm. The man passes by at first with only a quick glance at the pup, but then he’s back. He takes off his coat, wraps it tightly around the dog and then, arms wrapped around his body against the now sudden cold, walks away.
No one made him do it and with no one seemingly watching, there were no accolades or rewards for his action, but it was the right and generous thing to do.
Or how about the recent video of a man who saw an American flag disposed of in some random person’s trash with just a bit of the red, white and blue visible. We watched as he drove by but then came back, removed the flag and folded it with the greatest of respect into the familiar triangle before placing it on a nearby table, stepping back and offering a salute. Then he simply drove away. All caught on security video that he most likely never realized was there. He did something simply because it was the right thing to do with no expectation of anyone else ever knowing about it.
Kids are great at doing random acts of kindness. They do it because something inside told them it was the right thing to do and when it’s done they move on to something else. Unlike kids most adults are programmed to want recognition for a good deed. Hey look at me, I donated thousands of dollars to a charity. Hey look at me, I bought Thanksgiving dinner for a poor family. Hey look at me….look at me….look at me.
I believe that if you have to be recognized for something kind and right that you have done for another then you are doing it for the wrong reason. The true measure of a man is what we do when no one is watching. When there is no reward or recognition. For in fact, the greatest reward we can have for doing good things for others is the feeling inside – the feeling that for that brief moment you made someone else’s life better. And if you do it often enough, you will find happiness inside you that no amount of public recognition can ever equal.
So I ask you my friends, what are you doing when no one is watching?