Doing battle with daily dragons

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Value of Charity

Here’s a moral conundrum for you on a sticky Monday morning that the Rock Star and I chatted about over the weekend. It starts with an example:

Driving home from a gig on Friday night, around about 3.30am, we noticed what we thought to be a large sack of rubbish lying on the pavement about 200 yards ahead of us. However, when our headlights reached it, it turned out to be a guy lying on the pavement by the side of the road in the middle of just about nowhere with his head in the street and the rest of him on the sidewalk.

“That’s not good.” I said, as we came to a halt inches from the prone reveller.

The Rock Star told me to stay in the car and took his phone in case medical assistance was needed. Luckily, it wasn’t.

“You alright, mate?” the Rock Star ventured.

“Huh?” said the Guy Lying in the Street.

“You’re lying in the street, mate. Are you alright?”

“Oh yeah, man, I just got kinda tired.”

“Um, if you’re gonna sleep, maybe you’d like to do it in the grass over there?”

“No, man, where’s the fun in that?”

And with that The Guy Formerly Lying in the Street got up and happily wandered toward what we hope was his place of residence.

So here’s the thing: Does an act of charity still have the same worth depending on the motives behind it, or is it merely enough that it is an act that does good? The Rock Star and I stopped because…well, that’s what you do if you see a guy lying in the middle of nowhere on the pavement with his head in the road. He was kind of big and scary and neither of us actually WANTED to stop, but…that’s what you do. What I’m wondering is if we had stopped out of genuine desire to do good, would that be worth more morally in the Great Book of Whatever? Or is it enough that we stopped?