Imagine a scenario where you are in need of help.
Perhaps you are homeless, perhaps you are a struggling single parent.
You have been battling this scenario for many years, you have made efforts to improve your situation, but it is exceptionally difficult.
From time to time, over the years, people have popped in, asked for your story. They have listened, empathised, express sympathy. You have told them your story, your fears and difficulties.
It is emotional labour. Exhausting. You trust that they care.
Then they do one thing for you, maybe two… Maybe you never hear from them again.
Maybe after the story they don’t do anything.
Sometimes, after a big effort of help, for a period of time, when it all gets a bit much for the acquaintance or friend, when the service runs out of resources, or when the family lacks the material means to continue to assist.
Then, after the glimmer of hope. After the baring of your soul and exposing your most vulnerable fears and difficulties, nothing.
The promise of help, the promise of understanding and a feeling of connection and possibility.
Now imagine this happens over and over again.
And over and over again.
Eventually your ability to trust that good things can happen, that help is real and might work is damaged. Maybe irreparably.
When real help turns up, after all of these disappointments. When actual opportunity knocks, how would you have the capacity to not only recognise it, but to take it up wholeheartedly?
Consider if surgeons started surgery before they were confident that they knew what was wrong, or that they started doing surgeries without taking the time to do the training and learning about how to diagnose and perform surgery. Consider if they started operating before they had the resources to finish the surgery, stopping halfway and leaving you open and vulnerable on an operating table. We would consider that to be negligent, we would not consider ‘isn’t some surgery better than none’ to be an adequate excuse.
Likewise, sometimes rushing into ‘help’ without proper a proper understanding of what is happening, what is needed to help and the resources to help can be worse than waiting, taking your time and ‘not helping’ right away.
People in need, do indeed need people to be nice. We can all be nice, if we are already nice, we can all be nicer.
It is harder to do good.
Doing good requires time, dedication and resources. Doing good requires more time, but being nice can happen right now.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel compelled to do good for someone in need, maybe take a moment to audit your capabilities and the needs of the person you are speaking to. Is it a moment to Be Nice, or is it a moment to Do Good? Be honest with yourself and with the person in front of you. How many botched surgeries would it take for you to distrust surgeons and perhaps end up avoiding life-changing or life-saving surgery because you'd been let down before? If that same surgeon had simply said,
"I don't know just now. I can't do anything right at this moment, but I am working to get the skills and resources together to be able to fix this for you or others in the future. Right now I can be nice, be understanding and apologise that the help that you need is not available. I can seek out people who may be able to help, but I'm not sure where they are or where to start. Right now, I can give you a coffee, a sympathetic ear and a moment of empathy and understanding. I am sorry that the help is not right here for you. I will help those who help others so that this does not remain a problem for ever."
In the future, the person needing help may indeed have the trust required to buy in to the help, when it finally arrives. Improving the process and outcomes for everyone.
We encourage everyone to be nice, on their own time, all the time. We help everyone to do good, ensuring that you become part of a process that provides the assistance that people need, when they need it, for as long as they need it.
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Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.