In one of my favorite Broadway shows, “Wicked”, there is a song the very green Elphaba sings, “no good deed goes unpunished.” I totally get that song. Inside me there is this compulsion to help. It doesn’t even matter if I know you, if you look like you need assistance, I can’t stop myself from butting in.
As you can guess, my desire to be helpful is not always well received. Standing in a grocery line, the woman ahead of me had a crying baby in a car seat. I saw the binky laying the seat beside the baby, so I stepped forward while she was paying and put the binky in the baby’s mouth. You would have thought I was stabbing her kid with the way she glared at me, though the man behind me was sure happy when the baby’s screams stopped.
The best reaction I’d ever had happened while I was a lifeguard. At the time I was working at a wave pool. A man had his small daughter out in the deep, jumping up and down through the waves. To me, he looked like he tiring, struggling to keep his daughter and himself above the relentless waves hitting them over and over again. So I pushed the emergency shutoff valve, and jumped in to save them both. The man was not happy. He yelled at me through the entire ride back into the shallow end on my buoy. He even told my supervisor I should be fired. To him, my reaction had embarrassed him needlessly.
Less than twenty minutes later, he was out in the deep again with his daughter. As I watched him weaken, I debated whether or not to jump in. After all, he had punished me for my previous “good deed”.
When I realized he was no longer jumping, and couldn’t hold his daughter above the waves, I stopped debating and jumped. Red faced and exhausted, this time the man didn’t say anything as I tugged them both in the shallow end. My supervisor was there to greet us. She asked the man, “If she should fire me now?”