The first part of the title should tell you all you need to know about my affair with the Light Box (aka, THOR, The Helper of Rob). Like me and Success, sometimes it’s just a poor match. Actually, I wasn’t noticing much of an effect with the THOR over the past few weeks, and with the weather in NYC significantly improving, I’m going to make a conscious effort to spend a little time in the sun each day. This is relevant because, as discussed, I have very few interests, and virtually all of them involve being in my very dark Mancave (i.e., apartment).
In other news, as I was walking into the vestibule of my bank to deposit an insane number of checks for very little money (co-pays), I held the door open for a mid-20’s man to get to the ATM’s. He was dressed in what looked like a fairly expensive suit, and as I started to work on my transactions, I noticed he was fishing through his pockets and getting frustrated.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you heading upstate on the train?” and he pointed to Grand Central Station.
“No, I live in the city,” I said.
“It’s just that, it appears that I left my wallet in the office and my train leaves in just a few minutes. I need to buy a ticket and I don’t have time to run back and get money. If you were going on the train my wife could give you the money when we pull in.”
I looked down at the man’s wedding ring and considered that he wasn’t the most obvious person to extort $20 from me, especially here in Manhattan. I suppose he could have plotted out a scheme to follow me into the bank, feign forgetting his wallet, bet on the fact I wasn’t taking the train with him, and then laugh all the way to the bank.
“If you give me your address, I can mail you the money back,” he said. “And I’ll give you my card as well.”
At that moment I thought about some research on happiness. Few would doubt that altruism leads to improved quality of life for people, but studies are finding that helping others has similar effects on the brain as does sex and eating great food (i.e., similar regions of the brain are activated during all of these activities).* If the light box wasn’t bringing me increased happiness, could giving this man his train fare home do the trick? I’ve given money to homeless people before and I’ve felt great about it, but that wasn’t when I was feeling dysthymic.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20.
“Here you go,” I said.
“Wow, thank you!” the man said, clearly surprised that someone in NYC would turn over twenty bucks just like that. He took out a pen and asked for my address so he could send me a check. It crossed my mind to simply wish him well and consider it a gift, but the sheer curiosity of whether or not he would actually pay me back was too much. Plus I could always tear up the check if I was still feeling so giving a few days later.
I left the bank feeling pretty good. Not great, but definitely a little bit better. If the guy didn’t need the money and had scammed me, then I wouldn’t really be helping him. But whether he remunerates me or not, I’ll never know for sure if he actually needed me that day. And since the light box is now sitting in a box in the back of my closet, I’m going to assume (or perhaps simply delude myself) that I benefited the mental health of both me and the man. Isn’t life wonderful that way?
UPDATE: It’s been 10 days and nothing has come in the mail…
* One might argue, then, that altruism, at least by definition, does not exist. You get something in return, it has a selfish quality. Not in the pejorative sense, merely that you benefit from the action. And if this research is sound, you should be thinking, RIGHT NOW, about how to help someone, eat a great meal and then have mind-blowing sex. You’ll be the happiest person on Earth!