Weren’t you ever taught to share?

Georgie Hunt

Have you ever shared something just because you could? One day, my grandmother was walking into the supermarket when a woman stopped her to say how much she loved her coat. A few moments later, my grandmother was struck with an impulse in generosity. She turned around, spotted the lady who had so kindly expressed her partiality to her coat and told her, “I’ve enjoyed it long enough; now you can.” My grandmother’s generosity is evidence that people are capable of motiveless sharing. She acted without a concealed intent and gave her coat because she could.

People like to fancy themselves good sharers – charitable, giving and hospitable – but often people share because they think they should or because they hope to receive something in return. Is sharing legitimate if exercised for the purpose of some ulterior motive? If not, I wonder if anyone has ever shared at all.

Sharing seems an elementary concept, but it is not easy when humans are reluctant to share even something as simplistic as candy. A friend of mine admits she cannot help but immediately think, “No! Are you kidding me? This is mine!” It is interesting that her primary reflexes are ones of shock and appalled disbelief at the audacity of an appeal for an M&M or two. She does not utter her annoyance out loud; rather, she gives in to the powers of conformity and gives up a few precious chocolatey bits.

The desire to share is not a natural human reflex, and my friend is not strange in her aversion. She eventually shares, not because she wants to, but rather because she is repulsed by the imperfections on her self-image. She shares her M&Ms because she knows if she does not, she will be looked upon as a glutonous, selfish person, who wants the entire bag of colorful morels for her own enjoyment.

The task of sharing becomes more arduous when dealing with sharing oneself and one’s precious time. If human beings are naturally disinclined to share, then why do they? Is there always a motive behind a generous act, or can a person ever just give simply because he or she knows someone who needs?

One could argue that motivations do not matter when the job is being done. When thousands of college students volunteer for Saturday Habitat for Humanity, when an entire campus comes together to celebrate Special Olympics and when students trade in the luscious beaches of Cancun or Miami for a spring break spent helping out in New Orleans, it is of no consequence whether they signed up because they genuinely wanted to help better themselves and humanity or because they wanted to have something to write on their resumes. Sharing is always exteriorly honorable, but why must there be a possibility for personal gain and advancement to propel the act of giving? Why not share just because there is a sign-up sheet?

Everyone is a little selfish about something. It is not a flaw or a cause for feeling shameful. It is human. But it is also human to recognize the situations of other humans and feel compassion. Share something because you can and because there is always someone who needs.

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Georgie Hunt is a sophomore English major from Pomfret, Conn. She can be reached at [email protected]