Should we commit random acts of kindness? There's a bumper sticker that says we should. Oprah tells this story (in the "dog" issue I read in my doctor's office yesterday): she adopted a puppy at the animal shelter and days later the dog was dangerously ill with a parvovirus. The puppy wound up in the animal hospital getting antibiotics, "probiotics" (?) and a plasma transfusion. At huge expense, the puppy survived.
All that money poured into one dog, when a dog is euthanized in an animal shelter every 6 seconds! The same money could have been spread around to lots of animals and saved lots of lives. But wait--isn't it somehow a good thing to treat an individual dog as an irreplaceable being, worthy of every expense?
There's an intriguing story in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains. Paul Farmer has a critically ill boy airlifted out of Haiti and flown to a hospital in the US, where vast sums are spent to try to keep him alive. The same money could have been spread around at his clinic for the desperately poor, and could have saved far more lives. Farmer's coworkers at the clinic are skeptical, but he's willing to give one individual a kind of "infinite" worth just this once.
So...random acts of kindness in both cases. If we can't always invest that way in every single life, it's good to make an exception when we're inspired to do so...I think. It's puzzling. Good for whom? Good for the honing of a caring attitude in the person who performs the act. Good for the recipient. But not good for the other needy people or animals who might have been helped if the money had been spread around.
Somehow it seems good and right anyway to perform random acts of kindness...thought I can't explain why that is.
* That's Punky having a nap. Parents new puppy. No random acts of kindness there...it's all kindness, all the time.