Sunday, March 16, 2014

30x30: Always Do the Next Right Thing


Almost 14 million people have viewed the video of the homeless lottery winner 

- the one where, in lieu of pocket change, a guy gives a homeless man an unredeemed convenience store lottery ticket, goes with him to redeem it, and it just happens that the ticket is worth $1000.

Spoiler Alert: the man who gives the lottery ticket is YouTube prankster Rahat Hossain of Magic of Rahat. The ticket was a fake, but the homeless man, Eric, won real money thanks to an arrangement Rahat had made with the store clerk.

The first thing Eric did when he realized that the $1000 was actually going to be his, was turn to the man who had given him the ticket and say, "I would like to share it." When Rahat refused the money, Eric insisted, then broke into tears, saying that no one had ever done anything like that for him. Then Rahat got teary too. Then so did the video's 14 million viewers.

While I imagine that this experience had a profound impact on Eric and Rahat, I doubt that the video has changed the lives of many of its viewers. Most of us probably watched, felt moved to some extent, then kept doing whatever it was we were doing without giving what we saw too much extra thought. 

Even so, a lot of us were moved, by Rahat and especially by Eric's unexpected response.

It's hard to live in the world, as Eric might testify. A lot of the choices that we make are based on the need for comfort and survival, and there's often not  much time left over at the end of the day to think about ideals. Eric could have taken that $1000 and walked; the guy gave him the ticket, ticket turned about to be worth a grand, done. And with Eric's apparent destitution, no one would've blamed him.

But despite his poverty, there was something in Eric that wouldn't let him leave the store without offering to share with the man who had made his good fortune possible. He didn't need to think about too hard; didn't have to convince himself. For him, it was just the right thing to do.

In aspiring to such actions, there are two thoughts that have given me a lot of guidance in these last few years leading up to 30. The first is:

Who do I want to be in the world?

What kind of person? And what choice can I make in this moment to help me be that? Like living in the world, it's hard to always be who I want - kind, courageous, patient, trustful, honest. But few feelings are worse than realizing that a decision I've made is moving me farther from who I want to be than closer.

The other thought:

Always do the next right thing.

Or ADTNRT which, if I got a tattoo, would be the tattoo I'd get. It's a popular AA slogan and is featured in one of the best movies of all time, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. As a phrase, I like its simplicity, though it seems like one of those things that's way easier said than done. But as a thing to live by, I like that it only asks me to deal with the moment at hand: the next right thing. 

Not all right things, just this one right here.

If I can string enough right things together, then I'm that much closer to being who I want to be in the world. I'm that much closer to, like Eric, doing the unexpected, the remarkable, and the right.

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