Kindness Beyond Altruism

Bright Leaves Bright Light

I’ve given up on the terms “selfishness” and “altruism”. Those words assume we are individuals with debts and credits in a karmic bank account that can be exchanged. Kindness, especially forgiveness, is a communal experience including even onlookers* and crossing generations. There is no point measuring it. It overflows all containers.

I remember picking up the couple in the evening as I entered I-95 in central Maine. I figured they had to go to the next town, but their destination was one hundred miles further north. They were as tired and messed up financially as I was. She was well along in her pregnancy.

That was so long ago it feels like another lifetime. I drove them to their apartment which was as rundown as the farmhouse room I was renting and left them with a smile. They never stopped smiling back.


*I realized this after reading Sarah Connor’s post “Kindness — haibun for dverse”.

Text: Linked to dVerse Haibun Monday.  Toni is hosting with the theme “kindness”.  I am also linking this to Debbie Roth’s Forgiving Fridays.

Photo: “Bright Leaves Bright Light” by the author.

Author: Frank Hubeny

I enjoy walking, poetry and short prose as well as taking pictures with my phone.

60 thoughts on “Kindness Beyond Altruism”

  1. God, Frank, I am so touched by this haiku, and your blog sharing. Kindness beyond altruism – beyond counting – beyond right- and wrong-doing – – what a limitless world that is (and even saying “limitless” implies a limit!).

    I am currently working with gratitude as an antidote for lack, to see through the eyes of caring, of compassion, of generosity. Thank you for this post and your expression. I love that you contributed this for Forgiving Fridays, I am privileged to share it this week!

    Have a beautiful rest of your week, and blessings, Frank – Debbie

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Excellent rocking of the prompt, sir. You seem quite busy & active on several poetry blogs. I struggle to do three poems a week for dVerse–of course my photography site eats up a lot of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Without measuring it spills out on everyone. I really like your haiku and it packs a truth wallop. I also like the truth in your words about the communal nature of forgiveness and these concepts and how the effects can be far reaching. I am trained in communal justice concepts and how negative actions effect the community in the same way and restoration being made and all. Nice write.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! The communal aspects of kindness or negative actions are deeper than the individuals directly involved. I wonder if looking at ourselves as “individuals” is a misunderstanding of who we are.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It flows even to those who have seen it happen as Sarah Connor describes in her haibun. I didn’t realize how powerful such actions are until I wrote this and read some of the other haibun. Thank you, Grace!


    1. I don’t they did any more than I forgot it. Sometimes I think my remembering of it mirrors their remembering of it even though it was long ago. Memories may be communal rather than individual. Thank you, Sara!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a long way, but this was a thinly populated part of Maine. They would not have seen many other cars taking the interstate and it was getting late. I’ve thought of it many times. Thank you, Mary!


  4. A beautiful take on kindness Frank and I like your haiku very much. The autumn sun does have a special warmth and brightness to it…linking it to kindness is a heartwarming antidote for other aspects of human behaviour which make my heart sink.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both kindness and the lack of kindness affect whole communities, not just the people involved. It is why the question is not the simple one of choosing between selfishness and altruism. It goes beyond that. Thank you, Janice!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I grew up in rural Indiana, but lived in Maine for a decade in my twenties. After working in forestry I studied for a Masters in Mathematics at the University of Maine at Orono. Then we moved to Illinois. Thank you, Elizabeth!


    1. What occurred to me on thinking back on that for this haibun is that it did ripple on. So does unkindness. It makes me question the more limited ideas behind both selfishness and altruism both of which are individualistic or group-based rather than community based. Thanks, Bjorn!


  5. I apologize for getting to your submission so late. I lost internet (!) yesterday during the prompt and just got it back sometime early this morning. Yes indeed. You are right…kindness overflows every container and spills out. I like that you drove the couple 100 miles. I feel warm just reading about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking back it was not too great of an inconvenience on my part. It did take a few hours and some gas, but they got home and I will never forget it. Thank you, Toni, and thank you for the excellent theme.


  6. Frank that was not only but kindness wrapped with a leap of faith. I guess it always is. The focus has to be on doing the right thing for you and your conscience and the universe will take care of the rest. I don’t think I would be brave enough to do what you did. But it turned out to be a really good thing for all involved. I guess my thinking in this case might be consideref measuring it, or just plain chicken: )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose there was a leap of faith involved, but in those days I thought nothing of picking up people. So stopping for them was a minor bit of kindness. Making the decision to take them to their apartment took more consideration. I was looking for other ways to resolve their problem, but nothing occurred to me. I didn’t feel afraid nor was I trying to do good outside of being neighborly. I was faced with a situation and I didn’t want to make it worse. Maybe that is one aspect of kindness–trying not to make something worse. Leaving them on the side of the road would have made the situation worse. I can see how picking up people can be dangerous. I don’t recommend it in general, but that didn’t cross my mind at the time.


    1. I found your blog post interesting. Given David Sloan Wilson’s “Does Altruism Exist?” and Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” I think we need to go beyond the concepts of selfishness and altruism. These both focus on individuals in anonymous societies. Instead it might be worthwhile to focus on members of groups helping themselves through helping the groups that provide them with identity and meaning. We may be members of many groups.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: