Doing the MOST Good

salvation-armyThere’s a scene in the movie “Elf,” where Buddy (Will Ferrell) first gets to New York City, and goes into a dingy diner that has a sign outside that reads, “World Best Cup of Coffee,” and exclaims, “Congratulations! You did it! The world’s best cup of coffee!!”

I always think of that scene when I walk by a Salvation Army volunteer during December, as he’s ringing his bell, because somewhere on his coat or on the bell stand it will say, “Salvation Army: Doing the Most Good.” I want to say, “Congratulations! You did it! The most good!”

Being the competitive, insecure person that I am, I always interpreted that sign, “Doing the most good,” to mean: “Our nonprofit is far superior to your nonprofit, in that our accountant just reviewed the data that confirms we are, in fact, helping more people than all the other lame attempts of charities out there.”

But now I think I get it.

Doing the MOST good sometimes requires doing things that feel wrong, mean, and completely unnatural. Doing the MOST good can feel like not doing any good.

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9 thoughts on “Doing the MOST Good

  1. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
    — Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”

  2. Having that said, what defines a healthy community? For me, it is the moment someone is silenced. If you start a support group for depressed people, then you have to understand people will voice the reality of their disease — suicidal thoughts. A group that allows the silencing of people struggling or enforces rules that prevent authenticity, that is the moment it becomes an unhealthy community. That is why I left your group. No offense to you. I think you are a great person, do great work and have made many positive contributions. I don’t feel that group is “healthy” anymore. Not because there are suicidal people in it, but because we had to always be silent about something. Suicide. Religion. Politics. Opinions. Feelings, ect. It was always something. That is not healthy in my opinion. The people who can’t deal with someone’s expression of their illness should be the ones removing themselves from the group. Did you start a support group or a denial Pollyanna group??? The answer to that question will give you all the guidance you need. God bless and keep you.

  3. Oh, and I don’t know who this John is….don’t know him. Never met him. But I wouldn’t go see him or be his client or join his group. His advice is really crappy considering what he does for a living. No, you cannot save everyone. That is a given. Nobody expects you too. But you cannot sensor people unless they are threatening people or being abusive or downright hateful. You just cannot. I don’t give a shit what any psychologist tells you. You will not be able to save everyone and for the few months I was a part of the group, nobody publicly asked you to save anyone — that I personally saw. People need freedom to express what’s going on with them….because we cannot do that in the real world. You can’t walk into your job and when someone says, “how are you today?” you can’t reply, “I want to die or kill myself.” You just can’t. GBB was supposed to be the safe haven you could do that in. In my opinion you are driving away the people that need the group the most and keeping the people that should be in a treatment center because they require more help you can provide.

  4. There are a lot of “complainers” in that group that just want something to complain about and are excessively offended by trivial things. Those should be the ones weeded out. There are also some wonderful people in there who are just really having a hard time and they end up leaving because of these people who just have to cause trouble and constantly complain about everything and in the end will never be happy no matter you do. You should suggest to THOSE people, to align their behavior with an attitude of tolerance or kindly exit the group.

  5. There are many assholes in the world. It stands to reason that a percentage of these assholes are depressed, self-harming, suicidal assholes who don’t care about YOUR welfare or the welfare of others in the group.

  6. Um Sam…..suicidal people are not assholes. They are suicidal. God only knows why. Calling them assholes seems to be something only an asshole would do. :)

    The moderator or head of the group is responsible for their own welfare by saying and understanding they cannot save everyone and that everyone has a right to express themselves because it is a support group. Those who cannot handle that need to exit. That is how you care for your own welfare. Yes, people will hate you — that is true for everything in life. So be it. As for the other members in the group……you can’t walk on eggshells. one person may feel hurt by one thing and someone else by another. So what happened was, some of us were afraid to speak or post or saying anything lest we upset someone and have to deal with a barrage of comments from overly sensitive people. That’s bullshit. As a fellow member, I had rights also. My feelings and opinions and beliefs are just as important as everyone else’s. If I disagreed with a fellow member I either ignored the post or said so and moved on. I am not responsible to coddle everyone at the expense of myself.

  7. I said SOME are not ALL Stephen. Remain calm and re-read my post. I know I’m not an asshole because I am generous of spirit and care about other people believe it or not. An example of my generosity is using the term ‘asshole’ for my American friends and not ‘arsehole’ which is my native tongue. Which is firmly in the side of my mouth. Chill.

    1. So, you are generous because you use the word asshole? Ok.makes sense. I’d think about how you word things and reread your post. I read it already so I’m good, thanks. And I am “chill.” 😉

  8. A powerful reminder to all Givers. The advice given to me that I can’t help anyone if I don’t take care of myself first has been the hardest of all advice to take. At first, it sounded selfish and narcissistic. But I think I’m slowly starting to get it. How can you give bread to the hungry when your own basket is empty? We need to take the time to fill our “baskets.” We need to give ourselves permission to sometimes let go of our sense of duty and obligation for a bit. Fill your metaphorical basket first, to the brim if you can. Then go out and minister to others, never forgetting to leave a bun or two at the bottom for yourself when you’re hungry and need to go back to refill.

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