Sleepy Thoughts on Altruism

It was shortly after 5:00 am Eastern Standard Time and I was laying in my bed awake.  I wasn’t protesting sleep or even tossing and turning fighting to relinquish my consciousness, rather I was woken up by my sporadically anti-establishment 8 month old son. Sometimes he loves the sleep schedule we impose on him and on other nights I think he is trying to recruit the neighbors to be “down with the struggle”.  In a statement of full disclosure, for every minute of sleep I lose, my wife has probably lost 45 minutes (she is a saint in more ways that one).  Nevertheless, I found myself awake just after 5:00 am EST last night. I must have just ended a REM cycle because Britt’s weary request for me to put the baby back to sleep didn’t sound like the equivalent of running a half marathon with cinder block shoes.  Only a slightly reluctantly I left the room to pat my little protester’s bottom until he gives up his latest attempt to shrug the yoke a full night’s sleep.

After a surprisingly quick victory in the sleep battle, I returned to my bed with a mind that was slightly less foggy than when I began.  Eager to claim my last two hours of good sleep before the day began, I started to consider altruism.  “Does getting up to put the baby back to sleep count as an act of Altruism” I wonder, getting closer to sleeping again. “It doesn’t benefit me to admit my consciousness to Britt when he is crying through the baby monitor. In fact, it benefits her to know that I am awake and that she can stay in bed and rest, while I sacrifice my sleep by going to pat Jonah back to sleep.  I guess that is the definition of altruism if you wanted to be technical…”

As I am pondering these things and sleep is just a minute or two away, I hear that noise that makes my heart sink.  The baby is crying through the baby monitor again.  If my thoughts were broadcast out loud you could have literally quoted me as saying, “I don’t want to get up again. I just want to lay here in bed and think about altruism.”  By the time that the irony hit me, Britt was already on her way out of the room (like I said, a saint).

Whether or not my weak attempt to allow my wife to get some more sleep can be considered an act of altruism or not, I was reminded of what a true act of love looks like last night. When I think about serving my wife (or anyone for the most part) rarely do I have the opportunity to be truly altruistic.  Altruism being the act of helping another person at the cost of my well being. Even when given an opportunity to be altruistic, I preferred to stay comfortable and merely ponder the merits and boundaries of altruism instead of participating.

It is precisely moments like these that remind me to be grateful for the supreme act of altruism that Jesus completed by his crucifixion.  He being completely perfect and absolutely innocent was punished for my transgression.  He was completely aware of what harm would come to him and of what benefit would come to me (and all of mankind) and he accepted the terms and allowed himself to be killed.

In the end my half hearted altruism does really compare to that of Jesus, but it did serve to remind me of how far I am from being holy and encourage me to persist to that end.