Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Thank you for calling Skepchick headquarters. No, I’m sorry Elyse can’t come to the AI today. She is currently inventing a new Twister game designed to flip breech skeplings. Yes, jello is involved. May I take a message?

Hello skeptical friends and neighbors!

I just got back from the gym. I walk a mile or so down Hollywood Boulevard to get to the gym and I usually spend my time avoiding the drug dealers, the people in costumes and the guys who try to get storm trooperyou to go on the star home tours. No, I don’t want to see Madonna’s house and no, I don’t want to buy an ounce of weed. Yes, I DO want my photo with the storm trooper but that will have to wait! Today on the way back from the gym, something sorta of lovely happened. I got to help a blind guy across the street. I saw that he couldn’t click the walk button because he didn’t know it was there (and strangely there were no storm troopers around to help at the time) so I pressed the button and then asked the man if I could help him across. He said yes, and so escorted him across. He was very sweet and I have to say that even though I was technically helping him, it really made me feel good.

Good deeds are great for everyone involved.

Have you done any simple acts of kindness recently? Do you do anything to help the community or your friends and family that in turn makes you feel good? Would you like me to take a message for Elyse?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Where is everybody?

    It is hard to toot your own horn (I heard it makes hair grow on your palms) but someone has to start!!

    This week, I coordinated the stuffing of 8000 envelopes for our town library fund raiser. Not exactly stimulating, but I feel good about it because I am a huge fan of the library. In these rough economic times, library use is WAY up and funding and giving are down.

    The average age of the volunteers was approximately 80 years. I think that’s fairly typical of a lot of volunteers out there. It’s tough to have extra time when working, raising kids and/or blogging…..

    I’m headed out to the store and to find me a good deed!!

  2. I decided to become a nurse. A man-nurse. A murse, if you will. I probably could have become a doctor (if I had the will to give up a social life that is) and have more respect, and fewer inquiries as to my sexual orientation – but you don’t get to take time to care and deliver compassion as a doctor. Its instinctual I think, because whenever someone around me is injured I tend to arrive and dispense advice, caring, and sometimes a little technical know-how.

    I think I’ve made a career of helping others because it makes me feel good!

  3. [toot] I’m a volunteer for a community-based art and activist center (if it were in Europe it would be called an infoshop) called ABC No Rio. It’s on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. It was a former punk/art squat and is now a community center of sorts. Darkroom, print shop, computer lab, zine library, exhibtion space and lots of arts programming. It takes a lot of work and volunteers to run the place but it’s soooo worth it.
    I’ve also been to the gulf coast twice to help build homes post-Katrina. Those were 2 of the best weeks of my life. Meeting and working with residents and the other volunteers from all over the world and knowing that you are directly contributing is a feeling unlike any other.
    Also, most importantly, once or twice a week I direct tourists to the Apple store when they ask where it is. And I send them to the real store, not an abandoned building 20 blocks away, even though I am tempted to do so. [/toot]

  4. I spend a couple hours helping out in the local library each weekend. There have been budget cuts in the local library system, so the real librarians keep plenty busy.

  5. I volunteer lots and lots for local LGBT orgs. My specialty is coordinating volunteers and generally doing anything that needs to be done; I love working events and conferences (I’ve always been good at odd jobs and managing people). I get to meet a lot of people, do a lot of good, and it’s more often than not a lot of fun.

    Some of it is more serious, though. 5 people, including a good friend of mine, were arrested recently in front of John McCain’s office. They have more planned (non-violent civil disobedience). I can’t risk my job by getting arrested, but I’ll be keeping a close eye and going to a few rallies when I can.

    On Thursday I volunteered for a local music conservatory (they focus on school-aged children) for their recent charity event, and it was a LOT of fun. They had a ton of entertainment — student acts, local acts, even a senior choir — in a really great venue in Old Town Scottsdale. (The food — pasta cooked by real chefs — was amazing; by far the best food I’ve ever had at any charity event.) A good friend of mine is president of the board, and I basically worked as his right-hand man all night. I’ll probably coordinate the volunteers for the next big event. I am not at all musically inclined, but it’s a really great organization and a fun environment.

    @helenrizzo: As a volunteer coordinator, I can safely say that a LOT of young and single (no kids) people volunteer. That’s what I see mostly; not a lot of older people, actually, even at the music conservatory. It probably depends on the location and

    I really enjoy this stuff. It keeps me busy and out of trouble. I get to meet a lot of awesome people. Not to mention: Lots of free entertainment and food! Never a bad thing.

  6. @marilove: Well. That comment to @helenrizzo was supposed to go at the end, and it seems I am missing a few words. “It probably depends on the location and other factors like the focus of the organization or business.”

    And the link up there should be this link.

    I just woke up from a nap…sure, that’s my excuse. :)

  7. This one is decidedly non-recent (about 20 years ago) but anyhow.

    At the time, I was an overseas student in a university close enough to New York that visiting it was a day trip. On this occasion, it was after dark and I was walking on a side street near the Manhatten bus terminal, when I came across an confrontation, the core of which was “When are you going to get me my #$*&ing money?” There was a young guy (maybe 16) being berated by a much older (maybe 30) much bigger guy.
    The bigger guy sounded so aggressive that I felt violence was immanent. There were few enough people around that he might attempt it (while I don’t remember any others, it was a long time ago and they weren’t the focus of my attention.) So I stopped and watched openly from about 5 metres away.
    Eventually things wound up and the two parted, with the bigger guys parting shot being something like “Get me my #$*&ing money tomorrow or I’ll break your #$*&ing bones, and I won’t care who is #$*&ing watching!”
    And so I softly faded back into the night, never knowing whether the kid would have been assaulted had I not been there, or whether it had just been delayed.

    I’d read a Scientific American article about the psychology of helping people in hazardous circumstances. The main point is that whatever you decide, afterwards you’ll justify it to yourself, and thus be more inclined to that decision in future. If you help, you’ll try to convince yourself it was an important thing to do. If you don’t, you’ll try to convince yourself it was not your problem, they deserved it, or whatever. Therefore, always do something. This is particularly important if there are others around who might follow your lead – action or inaction are both self reinforcing.

    Delving even deeper into pop-psychology, what is the pivotal scene in the movie Schindler’s List? To me, it is the otherwise unremarkable scene when a one-armed Jewish worker comes to Schindler’s office to thank him for his job. Schindler doesn’t know how to deal with this, and clearly doesn’t welcome it, and kind of politely brushes the guy off. Then he rants at his bookkeeper/manager: “He only has one arm! He can’t do that job!” But, crucially, the one armed guy does not get fired. As I see it, this is where Schindler made his choice. Up to this point, his relationship with the workers was ambiguous – if he fired the guy, he was just exploiting the Jewish workers for profit. By not doing so, he was sheltering them. Taking one step on the road of compassion would lead to the next, and the eventual destination of being a broke hero. Had he taken a step of expediency instead, he’d have ended as a rich war criminal.
    (The description of this scene is from having seen the movie once when it first came out, so is probably not quite accurate.)

  8. Does the walk button actually DO anything in LA? Here in NYC, they are really just for show.

  9. Just the other night me and a friend were walking home late at night from a party, and we called the emergency number to get the police to where we were. There was a fight going on that looked dangerous for all involved.

    I also like to help the four old ladies that live in the same building as me, with small things like taking out the trash, or going to the grocery store with them.

    Turku, were I live, has been chosen to be the capital of culture in Europe next year, so right now all my volunteer time goes to events connected to that, and a choral group I know.

  10. I am a proud member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. This is what we do:

  11. Loki, as a doc, I can assure you that I have a very full and rich social life. I am a husband and a father who plays VERY well with his family. I am active in my gym and have many friends there as well. I play sports. I do improv. I play. I travel.

    I do this all while working a full workweek in internal medicine and pediatrics, finishing my electronic record workload at home several nights a week. Plus I take call .

    Now, I’m not gonna kid ya, the beginning of the doctorhood journey sucked. Hours were longer. Call was MUCH more frequent. Vacation time less.

    The key is time management, not requiring a lot of sleep, prioritization, and making the most of my efforts. Plus, I have an AWESOME family.

    I take care of my awesome family and , in return, they take care of me. The rest of my good deeds done well is because of my great fortune to have the job that I have. I am privileged and humbled every day to have this opportunity.

    Oh, I get pissed off and frustrated everyday as well because of insurance blockades, self destructive behavior, etc etc, but then enters a patient who changes my mood, brightens my world, and whether I deserve any credit or not, they thank ME for it. If that’s not humbling, then nothing is.

  12. And Loki, I started off as an orderly, back in the day when an orderly was a nursing assistant, and while I agree that nurse to patient contact time is much greater than doctor to patient contact time, especially in a hospital setting, I completely disagree with your statement : “but you don’t get to take time to care and deliver compassion as a doctor.” Yes, time allotted is less, but I can assure you that I care and I can assure you that I am compassionate and I can assure you that my patients would object to your statement as well.

    Generalizing and stereotyping is a quick and easy thing to do, but often leads to mistakes. My friend, this time, you are mistaken.

  13. When I visit terminal family members in the hospital, I stay for several hours. Everyone else either has to leave or doesn’t want to be in such an uncomfortable place for very long. In some sense, I do it out of love, but the primary drive is that, were I in their position, I would want a familiar face or voice present. So I stay there to be a warm hand that holds and a voice that may hopefully provide some comfort that cuts through the noise of machines, strangers, and unconsciousness.

    I hope this thread doesn’t become a flame war. I’m not a doctor nor a nurse, but everyone I’ve seen coming in and out of my grandmother’s ICU room this past week has been warm, compassionate, and gentle in their own ways towards those who don’t have the good fortune of health. Although purely anecdotal, my observation is that no one would be in this difficult line of work if they didn’t truly care about the wellbeing of strangers.

    Although Loki does seem to make some generalizations that are ill-suited for some, it seems to me that the expectations from the public are often that the doctors should be more clinical, technical, and adroit with their resources as they flit from patient to patient. I can’t help but wonder if this expectation might shape their demeanor in a way that can mask the compassion that guided them to this profession in the first place.

    Edit: I’d like to add that he said that dr’s lack the time for compassion, not that they lack compassion themselves.

    I also suppose that being exposed to lots of suffering might cause some to build up a defense of distance or professionalism in order to persevere.

    As for the stir around the comment of giving up social life, everyone’s social lives are different; perhaps Loki’s as such that it would be giving it up in order to make that commitment, while for others like halincoh, it would not.

    I think it might be good to take a step back and not jump to the conclusion that his statement included yourselves. If we’re going to dogpile someone for their assumptions, we might want to carefully consider our own.

  14. Addendum: For some reason, when I used the word “dogpile,” I misread halincoh’s posts as being from two different people. My apologies.

    Sorry to clutterpost, love you guys (RNs, Doctors, and Skeptics). Carry on.

  15. I do help blind people every day. Well, OK, mainly on weekdays. I get paid for it but not very well, so does it count as a good deed?
    I also help my dad from time to time and he’s nearly blind. And I do that for free.

  16. I do a lot of volunteer stuff. One of my two main gigs is for a women’s center-type place. I teach knitting at the domestic violence shelter, and I also volunteer as a hospital advocate for the same org. For that I’ll go to one of the local hosptial ERs in cases of sexual assault or domestic violence and tell the person about our services and that sort of thing. Sometimes it’s really difficult. But necessary.

    My other big gig is for a local cat trap-neuter-return organization. Once a month we turn a warehouse into a cat clinic and spay/neuter about 150 cats on average. I do a lot of stuff for this org, including serving on the board of directors.

    Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh–one thing that fits this thread perfectly! Earlier this month I was in St. Louis for the Popular Culture Association conference. I won something at the sci-fi/fantasy section’s raffle: a Dr. Who toiletry kit (push a button and it says “Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate dirt!”). I mailed it to a friend who adores Dr. Who, and I included some hand-knitted catnip toys for her cats. She was thrilled with the surprise.

    Just call me Tootie McTootersen.

  17. @ marilove

    Yeah … I AM sensitive, truth be told.
    Stereotypes often, but not always, lead to error. Pro or con, they are fast takes on limited information. We are all guilty of short cutting. We’re human. It’s what we do. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to bust a myth, now does it?

  18. @ amoebic

    In general, the world of the hospital is a world DEPENDENT on nurses and nursing care. Without nurses, they would be no hospital system. Nurses are and will always be the heart and soul of hospitals.

    But office based medicine, which I do, is a physician ruled world.

    One is not superior to the other. Though they are different, each system demands team work between nurses, physicians and ancillary care. A physician’s skill is crucial to the hospital system whereas a physician’s persona is crucial to office based medicine. As always , all of this is shaded grey. There are no absolute truths. I’m just trying to share my observations as someone who has worked as a nursing assistant, as a hospital based physician, and as my present incarnation as a office based doc.

    I mean not to stir controversy. But I do mean to express an opinion.

  19. @Chas: I salute you! :-D

    @Loki: I thought a “murse” was a men’s purse, but I digress… ;-)

    @catfurniture: Here’s a wave from one rescue volunteer to another!

    Sheltie Rescue activities, of course…

    Frequent random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, aka “paying it forward” whenever I can…

    Helping jobless friends with their resumes, job leads, etc

    Hiring said jobless friends to do stuff for me for extra cash, thus earning beer money, if nothing else

    Helping stray pets find their homes – They have a tendency to show up at our house…

    Giving goodies to co-worker’s for their kids on a random basis…

    Used to volunteer a lot for the library until we moved out here and discovered we really don’t have one…which really sucks.

    Neighborhood watch: call for police/fire/ambulance/etc whenever I see a situation that calls for emergency response

    Help neighbors during heavy snow, etc. by helping clear their driveways and sidewalks

    Phone in auto accidents when I’m on the road

    Monitor severe weather for tornadoes, etc. , as I used to be an aviation weather observer and know what to look for. I report them to the local Police so they can set off the sirens

    (Shrug) I feel most of the above is just performing the duties of a good citizen. It’s not that big a deal to me – It’s how I was raised. I often wish that I had the freedom to volunteer more, especially for disaster work. There’s a big call for experienced logistics people during disasters – which is exactly what airline employees do for a living…

  20. I gave a My Little Pony doll I’d been lugging around in the bottom of a box from apartment to apartment since I was 18 to a friend who restores and collects them. She had none of that kind, how grateful she was made me smile.

  21. Its so fantastic to read all these comments on helping others as this is something that I do in my life,a lot of people are busy with work, family etc and probably feel they haven’t the time to put towards helping others within their world, but we can all make time if we really do want to help, we can go without something and give up some our time,we can make a start within our own families.There is a saying ‘strong families=strong communities’therefore we all benefit.

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