Value of the week – Altruism

“I think we’re here to be kind to each other.” Marion Heasman, with Jane in the photo.

Marion at 90!

I have always thought of altruism, as the unselfish joy in focussing our actions on the wellbeing of others. In other words, it is the unselfish concern for others, the opposite of self-serving, which is called egoism. 

In my teaching about values, I often refer to altruism as a super value because it contains many other values, such as compassion, humility and respect.  

This week, I have experienced a number of examples of altruistic behaviour.  I have a fascination for the work of Vasily Sukhomlinsky, an outstanding Ukrainian teacher and thinker.  Alan Cockerill, who lives in Australia, has translated his books.  I decided to write to Alan to thank him for his translations, which I have been reading.  He wrote back and generously sent me drafts of his future book and other previous works that he has translated.  There was no mention of intellectual property, copy write or needing me to pay a fee.  All have been freely given because he knows that I am genuinely interested in helping people to understand what comprises a good education.  If you choose to sign up for Alan’s free newsletters, you can download a free e-book copy of Sukhomlinsky’s book, ‘My Heart I give to Children’.

My second example, features a retired friend who is devoting his life to helping displaced people, especially women and children who are refugees in the Middle East.  His altruistic work, overseen by a charity, demands a great sensitivity to the complex range of religious, political and cultural aspects of the people in the area.  His aim is to give humanitarian aid unobtrusively, where it is most needed, without giving offense to any other parties – a challenging task.  The selfless work is saving countless lives and giving hope to many.

Altruism comes in many forms and shown in so many ways: the care that parents give to their children, or the love shown to residents in a home for the elderly.  My wife Jane’s mother, Marion, is 90 on the 8th October and lives in an excellent residential home in Surrey.  She is a wonderful role model, showing such a range of altruistic behaviour, as I think you will sense in the photo of her with Jane.   Jane and I are aware too that she is being shown so much care and selfless love by the staff.  Recently Jane was talking with her Mum about peoples’ responses to life and Marion said, “I think we’re here to be kind to each other.”