Why do we do what we do?

I’ve touched on this subject before, the reasons people do the things they do. The recent passing of Memorial Day and the several recent national tragedies have set me to thinking about that subject once again. Why do we do the things that we do?

Money is a strong motivational factor that can often become an all-consuming passion especially for those of us who are more materially inclined. Let me put out a wild thought here; I don’t believe that drive for money applies to the majority of us. Oh, sure, we all want to be “successful,” to have a home, to be able to support our family, maybe a nice car and a dream of sending our kids to college. But a cold beer and a football game or a night out “with the girls” on a shopping spree is also a part of our idea of success.

You can adjust that last comment to suit your own taste but the philosophy of the majority of us is more inclined toward “live and let live” than it is “give me all the money.”

Let’s explore that thought: first Memorial Day. Do you believe those GIs fought in the war for the money? Was their motivation home and hearth and mother love and the grand old flag? War itself is a whole ‘nother subject we may discuss another time. This subject I’m going to introduce comes closer to a discussion of the intimacy you have with your husband/wife. You don’t often get a GI whose “been there, done that,” to openly discuss his combat experience except with another whose “been there” too. That veteran was fighting for the fella in the next foxhole, the guy in the other aircraft cockpit, the sailor in the adjoining gun-mount. Guys in the rescue helicopters would rappel down a rope into enemy territory to help a wounded airman on the ground. The helicopter aircrew held a stationary position, a non-moving target, while they attempted to pull the guy out. Why did they do that? Was it for the money? Have you seen the military pay scale?

In my mind there was no one who walked taller or stood prouder than those guys who went into harm’s way to rescue a fellow GI. Guys in hazardous situations did what they did for each other.

In our recent in-country catastrophes, people risked serious injury, even death, to help someone else, even a complete stranger. Teachers used their own bodies to shield the children in their care. Folks took complete strangers into their homes, giving them shelter when the storm had destroyed their homes. Did they do that for money?

I think those people did what they did for the same reason as those combat veterans. These were people reaching out to someone who needed help – because that’s what people do.

Deep down inside each of us there’s a feeling that we have an obligation to one another. These are things we should do.

And there’s a bonus after you’ve done something like that, you feel your stature has increased. You feel you’ve stood for something. You’ve stood proud and strong. You’re not just some clod filling a pair of pants. Your life has meaning. You get the feeling that you’re “alive,”

There’s a danger that this human trait can become buried in a quest for material things. The need for personal action gets explained away by criticizing those deemed unsuccessful, that their situation is of their own making: “Get a Job. Go to work.”

Accept your responsibility as a human being. Stand tall! Walk proud!

Editors note: Ben Mukkala is an award-winning northern Michigan author whose several books on life and living are available in printed and e-book form. Books are available in bookstores and gift shops or through his website, www.benmukkala.com.