Duty‑driven good works may do less damage than evil acts, but they certainly do less good than the generous act that rises, free from expectation, out of a spontaneous heart . . . like a child’s.
When one of my granddaughters was five years old, we took her to see her first play, The Wizard of Oz.
She was entranced (she had the video and knew the songs and the plot already), and tapped her foot in tempo to the music. Then we went to a restaurant, and while we were eating, she paused, stared at her food, looked up, and said, “I wish my mom and dad could have come.”
The Tale Wagged
Common occurrence; happens all the time. But what made her remark so powerful for me was the clear sense that she was not “being good” or polite or appropriate. Nor was she pouting or moping: she wasn’t criticizing us for not inviting her parents. It arose straight out of her heart, free of expectation. It was powerful.
While I was mulling this over later, I remembered listening to Mother Teresa speak in a large auditorium many years ago. I had sensed the same spontaneity in her: doing good just seemed to ascend out of her living. Her goodness seemed not to come from thinking about it; her self or soul or deep place had been engaged, just as my granddaughter’s had been.
I know “moral education” is important, but I just don’t have a clue how it occurs. My efforts often backfire when they come from “ought to” and “should”, but they seem surprisingly effective when they surprise me, rising up out of — it seems — nowhere.