David Hegg | Good Things for Good Reasons

David Hegg
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs Saturdays in The Signal.
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By David Hegg

I admit to being one of those who enjoys and prefers classical music. Consequently, I tune in to KUSC, our Classical California Music station, in my car and at home.  

If you listened to KUSC a couple of weeks ago, you know they were in the middle of their quarterly fundraising campaign. Given that 80% of the station’s funding comes from listeners, the staff not only take their fundraising duties seriously, but they are also very good at explaining how beneficial their musical offerings are to their listeners and our community. They are also very good at making it easy and satisfying for those who listen to donate yearly to keep the music flowing. So, it comes as no surprise that they met their fundraising goal due to the generous support of their listeners. 

But actually, it is surprising. Why would someone donate money to a radio station they have listened to for years for free? What kind of foolishness is that? What kind of person goes out of their way to give away good money for a product or service available at no cost? Why, that seems downright idiotic and maybe even un-American! After all, money is tight right now. Prices are increasing, and we’re all trying to find ways to save money, not give it to those who give away their products for free! 

But then again, KUSC presents an example of what is very American. After a week of listening to the many fundraising requests, I realized this: A thriving society is built on good people doing good things for good reasons. It’s called altruism.  

Altruism describes the attitude of caring for others and creating good for them, even when no benefit is gained. It is the desire to do something to make others better, to lift their misery, or to promote their joy, even when such action will bring no tangible benefit to you. As I see it, being an anonymous donor and enabling others to enjoy what is essentially free to me is a fantastic example of doing a good thing for a good, altruistic reason. This is especially true when no one is obligated to donate, but they do so to help improve life. 

Now, if only we could take a step back from talking about small donations to a publicly funded radio station and view our relationship as neighbors and fellow citizens as an even grander stage for altruism. Can you see what I see?  

I can see the rise and flourishing of a selfish society all around. We’re waist-deep in a culture that glamorizes the idea of “self-love” to the extent that “love of neighbor” is quickly vanishing from the list of essential character qualities. Increasingly, our national motto could be “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on top of the can scared someone is going to steal your stuff!”  

I could spend a few paragraphs here giving examples of how our American way of thinking is moving away from a “we’re all in this together” philosophy of relationship to a dangerous “it’s just me and you, and I’m not so sure about you” perspective of suspicion and downright hatred of those around us.  

I could do that, but I’d much rather encourage each of you to consider adopting a simple motto from now on: Do the right thing! Do good things for good reasons. Be the one who is known for kindness toward others, even those with whom you disagree. Pick up the litter. Put your shopping cart away. Let that guy who is in a hurry merge in front of you. Compliment those whose jobs often are invisible but whose labor makes a difference. Thank your grocery clerk. Praise a teen for having a job and working diligently. Leave a bigger tip for the waitress doing a good job serving you. Simply put, find ways to do good things for good reasons, even if you never gain anything. 

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did donate to KUSC. I did it not because I thought my contribution was essential to keeping classical music available to me. After all, in the years I didn’t donate, I still enjoyed their product! But I did it because, for me, it was a good thing to do to discipline my heart away from inbred self-centeredness and toward a selfless love of neighbor.  

Our city, state, country and world desperately need millions of good people with that kind of discipline.  

Remember, the virus of self-centeredness lies in every human heart. It takes a bit of rationalization to awaken it, and then watch out. Soon, your game will change from caring about others to caring only for yourself. And when your selfish desires and actions begin to erode your usefulness in the lives of those around you, here’s my suggestion.  

Tune in to KUSC and, as the music calms your nerves, remember that you’re receiving for free the exquisite musical masterpieces created by incredibly gifted men and women who used their gifts to make life better for people they would never know. Then, resolve to go and do likewise.     

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. 

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