Selfless – a psychological tripwire by Roy Stannard


Introspection 2

Colm was a generous man. He had been brought up to believe that the more he gave, the more he would be rewarded later in life or in the life after. As a child he had shared his toys with his friends at school, unselfishly. He had lent his things to people he hardly knew and often they didn’t come back. He didn’t mind. It was good to be generous and he was always popular with the children around him who loved to come and play with his things.

When Colm had money given to him by his parents, he made a point of sharing it with his friends too. It seemed right to share his good fortune. The money wasn’t his, it had been given to him so he could help make the world a happier place. Soon the young boy was surrounded by fair weather friends who loved to be in his company for as long as he had wealth to share.

In fact, they became accustomed to going to Colm’s house where they shared his money, his games, his books and anything else they could lay their hands on.  He felt obliged to find new ways of supporting this generosity and went out to work early in the morning, every morning, delivering newspapers in order to continue to have the money that people loved to share.

His parents wondered about the number of friends their son had and worreid about the size of the presents he asked them for when his birthday arrived, and after that, Christmas. But they agreed to give him what he asked for because they wanted their son to be happy.

For a while he was happy. He was the centre of attention and always seemed to have lots of people around him telling him a wonderful person he was. His friends clapped him on the back and agreed that he was a good fellow whilst keeping one hand free to take the gifts that he insisted on pressing on them.

In his teenage years, Colm continued to fund friendship with generosity. He took up smoking in order to be able to share cigarettes. He took up drinking in order to be the first to the bar. He took up driving at seventeen in order to be able to give people lifts. He shared his first girlfriend with his best friend, whoever that was. At eighteen, he shared his identity so that his friends could buy alcohol at the local supermarket. At College he made his essay answers available for those in his group who had forgotten to meet deadlines. He lent all his money to people who were good at crying.

When Colm got his first job he quickly became the man people went to in order to get new supplies of stationery, to borrow a mug from, to sign in for if they were late back from lunch. He was the first person the Boss went to if he wanted someone to work late, to come in at weekends, to meet the impossible deadline. He had an inexhaustible supply of jokes and sent more office emails than any one else.

When Colm met his wife he promised her the biggest and best honeymoon and a couple of friends came along too. Later, when they had kids, he came home every evening from work with a present for them. Soon they expected this to happen and pursed their lips if he came home empty-handed.  His wife loved wearing his presents and loved finding catalogues to enable him to indulge his generosity still further. His parties were the talk of the town and people said that you could make a whole new circle of friends at each one. Colm sometimes wondered who these strangers were in his house, but they smiled at him and clapped him on the back, looking for all the world as if they loved him.

The newspapers covered his spectacular parties and the gossip columns buzzed with what happened amongst the people who attended. Strangely, Colm did not appear in the pictures and his name was rarely mentioned.  In the rare photograph that included him, he looked like a waiter, handing someone a drink, always smiling, never being smiled upon.

After paying for the graduation celebration, the wedding and the motor transportation of his children Colm was asked for a divorce by his wife. He agreed and there was a generous settlement.

Soon after, he suffered a serious heart attack and was taken to hospital. There was no-one to go with him. He was asked by the Doctor on duty who he was. He didn’t know how to answer this question because an identity in life is a contract between people with something to share. He had given himself away. Selflessly. To exist in other’s minds he had to first exist in his own.

Out there, there is someone who loves you unconditionally. Have you spent enough time together today?

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