I am very selfish

They say it takes getting married to realize what a terrible person you are. It’s not that you were a great person while single; you were terrible then too. You just didn’t have anyone close enough to point it out.

Like it was your fault. Everything about singlehood prompts us to be selfish and inwardly focused. From an early age we’re given individual desks and lockers at school and told to be self-achievers. When we hit that mystic age of adulthood at 18-years-young we’re told to pursue our own studies, concentrating day and night on how to improve ourselves individually. And then upon graduating we enter the work force, sacrificing family and relationships on the altar of career advancement.

We tell everyone it’s for the common good. That our striving for personal improvement is so we can best serve the world. But can the world be best served from the inside of a cubicle? Does our hand reach those on the other side of our selfish isolation? Will a workaholic lifestyle help our elderly neighbor with her spring cleaning?

All this I process as I slip into my room, latching the door behind me. I’m escaping the noise, I tell myself. I need “me” time. I’ve got work to do. But really I’m avoiding the work out there – the rounds of tea and kymyz, the dishes, the entertainment of guests. How did I get to be so selfish? Ah – I’ve always been here.

So I learn to share and give and bend as the Kyrgyz do so well. If a kid shows up to school with an apple, he ends up eating a paper-thin slice. If a neighbor asks for a sheep, it’s provided and the money comes later. Even cheating on exams isn’t seen as an affront but rather encouraged as helping lesser abled classmates.

imageGod bless the man who shared his underwear as a paint rag

I show up to school in my work pants and dirty T-shirt. I end up spackled in paint, a nose full of dust and a week to the next bath. But you know what – a hard day of work for others makes me sleep better at night and the camaraderie makes me enjoy the experience all the more.

I’m not married, so I probably haven’t yet fully explored the abyss of my total depravity. But I do live in close relationships and it’s enough to teach me a valuable lesson – if I focus on others and work hard, the selfishness ebbs to reveal what was hidden: community.

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