Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Feels Good

A reader of this blog works with teenage refugees. Think about teenage refugees for a moment. Being a teenager is bad enough. Now imagine you're a teenager and you have to move and leave not only all your friends but your whole country. And you can hardly take anything with you, and you're leaving because you or your parents are persecuted or in an area destroyed by war or natural disaster. So you have to learn a new language, a new culture, and fit in to a new group at a time of life where people in their own culture are feeling like misfits, and you have to get on with the usual figuring out who and what you are going to be when you grow up, even though the rules of the game may be radically different from where you came from.

One of these young people expressed interest in becoming a pilot. Another kid in the group told him he couldn't be an airline pilot because his name and appearance was obviously Arab. My reader turned to me to find out whether this was a problem, and how he could find out more about what was required to meet this kid's goal. I answered from my own knowledge, but then remembered an airline pilot reader in that same city. I connected the two people, in the hopes that information and maybe some stickers and postcards would be exchanged, and felt happy to have maybe helped.

Then a couple of weeks later I received an e-mail that leaped into ALL CAPS in its inability to to contain the writer's squealing delight. The airline pilot had set up a full tour of the operations center and maintenance hangar, including a chance to sit in the cockpit of a CRJ. The young prospective pilot received inspiration, and his outreach worker says he now looks to his supervisor and coworkers like a genius who can set up any kind of job experience in a moment's notice. And I who just sent a couple of e-mails feel fantastic. It felt as good as a perfect squeaker landing with the owner and the chief pilot on board. It's as delicious as chocolate macaroons. Feeling good about helping others does appear to be something that is encoded in our psychology/physiology. Thank you to all involved for today's high. And it's non-fattening, too.

24 comments:

Frank Van Haste said...

Dear Trix:

Now, hear this: YOU DID GOOD!!

(Usually, I eschew dramatic capitalization, but in this case it seemed warranted.)

Best regards,

Frank

grant said...

I've heard it called a Helper's High, and yes, it is gooood. Way-ta-go.

Curt Sampson said...

Hmmm. An alternate hypothesis: perhaps the rush is due to that you now have one or two people who feel they owe you a large favour for what you've done for them, and yet you spent very little on making them feel so. In other words, assuming that there's any chance you'll need to get a favour from either or both of those people in the future, you've just got yourself a great deal on it.

(Don't take that too seriously. I'm clearly just an overly-cynical curmudgeon. You did good.)

ken said...

Very nice story.
Are you doing any flying these days? Missing those stories.

Anonymous said...

Great...but don't forget! You are living in a place where this type of a good deed is possible. Try doing it somewhere else...say a country like that of the Arab guy or any other country that has been devastated by various types of bullshits for the past living-memory-and-a-half(Which is most of them), whose people spend each day wandering what the next hour will bring, as the world around them is torn down by the ongoing line of politics, that as any other politics, do absolutely nothing to better the living standards.

Then try to imagine yourself in the shoes of such people who can only be described as stuck in the middle. They are neither rich(By comparison to the west) and able to afford and get access to things like aviation, nor are they at the bottom of the pile, where someone will pick them up and emigrate them to a country like yours. And most of the people in the world are like that!! Neither on the top, nor on the bottom. They can only dream of and imagine things that in one swoosh, this guy was obviously given. Getting access to proper information for their area of interest, be it aviation or something else, is practically as complex and enduring process, as trying to merge all the world's religions together. The people are getting psychologically murdered! They can only wait...and that's how so many spend their entire lives! Waiting. They don't know what it is they are waiting for, because it changes every few minutes, but it's the only thing that they *can* do. There's nothing more or less that anyone could do or try, that'll change that. They'll wait, and nothing will ever happen to them. No one gives a damn about them in their own country, yet they can't start a new life, in a new one, much like your Arab guy, because countries like yours don't actually know what it's like there. They assume just because certain factors and scenes in their place mean a certain standard of living, that it's like that elsewhere too. They are assumed to be OK, and forgotten forever.

So what you did, was a pretty common occurrence, for an everyday life in a country that even though provides for these types of deeds to be done....on a much larger scale denies the very same types of things, to so *many*!!!

You better rethink just how *amazing* it really was and how good it feels.....or was/does it.....


Sincerely,

Person stuck in the middle

Cirrocumulus said...

Curt: there's an evolutionary theory that the reason we feel good about helping is that we need to help each other or our group will die out: so it's programmed into us.
There are groups (families, workplaces) where the culture is to try to make yourself feel better by putting other people down. It notoriously doesn't work: the people are unhappy and the workgroups unsuccessful.

GeorgeG said...

Anonymous:

It is a truism of our condition on this crowded, contentious planet that in helping anybody we make others resentful at being left out. There are too many needy at so many levels for most to feel even marginally stable, let alone satisfied.

I maintain, though, that this is no reason or excuse for failure to help. If we have the opportunity to perform even a small good deed that brings small delight to a few, let's do it. If the billions did what they could for others as often as possible, things would probably be better.

I salute Trixi for her kind act and wish her the joy of it.

George from Boston

Aviatrix said...

Ken: It's been a long winter, thanks to the US economy, but I worked a fourteen hour day yesterday (almost screwed up and worked fifteen due to bad time zone math) and those stories are coming soon.

Person stuck in the middle: I'm reading over your comment and trying to parse it. I certainly realize that there are people in grinding poverty all over the world, and I try to help them through donations to organizations like Oxfam and through buying fair trade agricultural items. You have internet access, the leisure to read and comment on blogs, and good fluent English, so if you're in a country or area where people generally have less than that, then you're doing well there.

There are very few circumstances where waiting and whining is the answer to improvement. Believe me I've tried that and my career has not benefited. No matter where or who you are, no one swoops down to give you what you want. You have to work for it. Why don't you e-mail me privately about where your middle is and why your circumstances are so dire there, and we'll see if you can have a good day, too.

There was no "one swoosh" for this refugee kid. His parents had to take the initiative, give up everything they had and dare to come to a new country. He recently had a good day, but I have no idea where the money for him to achieve his dream might come from.

dpierce said...

The joy of being thanked for improving someone's life (or even day) has to rank up there with the greats. It reaffirms, for both parties, that humanity and society and your own lives have meaning and value.

Anon: Please tell us where these places are, so that we may be enlightened. I've met people from nearly every country on the globe that have made a better life for themselves (usually better than mine) on their own initiative. They would be offended to be told that their only choice was to wait on external influence. I feel like I'm missing chunks of the map.

Curt Sampson said...

I suppose I'd passed over "Stuck in the Middle"'s comment somehow, until the Aviatrix commented upon it. Then it just made me think about my previous comment in this thread, which I will sum up in an embarrassingly non-cynical way: do the good deeds that are easy to do, and much will come of them sometimes.

Aviatrix didn't plan for this kid to get a cockpit tour and a line into the industry. She just did something easy, and the rest of it came out. You think that that pilot didn't have great fun introducing someone interested in his field to all the stuff he finds great? I think that they both had the time of their lives. It's extremely satisfying to introduce someone to something to which you've devoted your life when they respond wholeheartedly. It validates your own choices and existence. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, it's sharing the love.

And I expect that's the biggest kick the Aviatrix got: to see two others sharing what she loves.

But my point is: you can do that anywhere, any time, with anything. It could just as well be growing tomatoes, so long as you and someone else can find shared pleasure in it. You don't need to be a pilot. You don't even need to live in a rich country.

Which, of course, comes to what's really going to happen here. If this kid truly loves aviation, he may or may not become as lucky as Aviatrix. He may end up, after a lot of training at his own expense, being a first officer at a regional airline at $14,000 per year and unable to buy a home or raise a family on that, until he gets disenchanted and quits, going on to make a better living as an assistant manager at MacDonald's.

I suppose the end of it all is this: yes, Aviatrix is lucky. As am I. And she happens to have, more through the people she knows due to the society she's grown up in than her own Mother Teresa nature, been able to do a really, really nice thing. But she took the step forward. You certainly can't blame her for that. Do you really want to deny her some small enjoyment of the result, especially when the result is making someone else (two others, in fact, I posit) very happy?

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I have a different opinion.

There are many people between Canadian citizens wanting to become a pilot. Their chance to go this career is now worse, somebody else will take their place. I guess, nobody would care to arrange a "full tour" for the Canadians.

Remember, positive discrimination of any kind is in reality a much bigger discrimination of people "on the other side". In this case YOUR fellow citizens are discriminated.

The correct way by my opinion is to let the little Arab show he can integrate itself into society. He has to accept western culture, standards of behaviour, and forget that "standards" he came from. And yes, his religion too. Than and only than he can get the equal chance.

And you can hope his children will have similar mercy with your children, in couple of years your children will represent the minority in Canada.

Good luck.

Michael5000 said...

Anonymous: The "little Arab" is not in Canada. You need not worry about him being able to compete with a real Canadian, by your definition, on equal terms. Not an issue!

He is, in fact, a resident and citizen of my own country, which is much like Canada a place where most of the population traces its roots to immigration within the last five or six generations. There is a widespread belief in my country -- and, I have heard, also in Canada -- that the energy and vitality brought by our immigrant populations have had a positive force in our history. The point of my work, therefore, is to try to remedy a lack of access to resources, experiences, and knowledge that some of these kids have by virtue of their parents not being well-connected in the community. That way, they can contribute to the progress of the community. I like to think of it more in terms of raising the bar for everybody, see, instead of a sneaky way of keeping non-Arab peoples down.

But that's just MY nutty theory. In any event, don't worry. I'm not in Canada!

Aviatrix said...

I wrote some replies to this, but when I pressed submit, hotel Internet decided that I needed to log back in, and discarded the whole thing. Maybe I'll post later about
* if one stranger is nice to another, it does not reduce the possibility that someone will be nice to me at a later time
* one visit to an ops centre does not an aviation career make
* when I count children to see which side they are on, I'm looking for healthy and happy, not race or religion.

ken: I'm back at work, those stories coming soon.

Bob said...

one visit to an ops centre does not an aviation career make

According to XKCD it's even easier than that!.
;)

Well done Aviatrix

Sarah said...

Good to hear you're back in the air - it's been a while.

And it's very nice to hear about your small ( but apparently with large payoff ) act of kindness.

The world is not a zero-sum game.

Aviatrix said...

Nice segue, Bob!

grant said...

@Michael5000 - re: "There is a widespread belief ... that the energy and vitality brought by our immigrant populations have had a positive force in our history..."

This view may not be so strongly held within the ranks of our aboriginal populations. (I'm saying this with tongue-in-cheek). The mixing of widely different cultures is always contentious. But it can be done.

Anonymous said...

The blogger won't allow over 4,096 characters, so this is in two parts.

Part I
++++++

Wow...I knew I wouldn't exactly expect people to understand, but the lack of maturity surprises me. I've been reading this blog for only a few days, and so far loved it, till I read this post. It really pissed me off, that the uneducated interaction continues. Since noone obviously commented on it already, I felt the need to. You've all obviously all misunderstood the the point that I was making, and the context of some things.

@aviatrix

“There are very few circumstances where waiting and whining is the answer to improvement. Believe me I've tried that and my career has not benefited. No matter where or who you are, no one swoops down to give you what you want. You have to work for it.”

I'd really like to see you say it to the face of some of these folks who literally stuck in the mud, that their waiting is due to free will, and that they are "whining". FYI, this wasn't *whining*, however *waiting* as I said, is the only thing that a lot of the people have. Maybe something else works over there, but hard as you try, things in a lot of places, like the one I live in, just don't work. See my reply to dpierce for more...

“Why don't you e-mail me privately about where your middle is and why your circumstances are so dire there, and we'll see if you can have a good day, too.”

I didn't come here to ask for free simulator rides or whatever – If I wanted that, I'd have asked. So thanks, but no thanks.

“There was no "one swoosh" for this refugee kid. His parents had to take the initiative, give up everything they had and dare to come to a new country. He recently had a good day, but I have no idea where the money for him to achieve his dream might come from.”

Don't even think about preaching to me about giving everything up, and coming to a new place or planning the financial future. Practically right after being born, I've been 'starting over'. Don't that more times than I can remember, none of which ever yielded any results, exactly because of attitudes like yours and the ones I mentioned before – People presuming to know something about other worlds which they've never had the misfortune to live in. I long since lost the count on how many times I've been on the move, and awaiting something better...

“* one visit to an ops centre does not an aviation career make”

Noone ever said that! The point was about practicality of doing something good towards someone's interests.

Anonymous said...

Part II
+++++++

@dpierce

“Anon: Please tell us where these places are, so that we may be enlightened. I've met people from nearly every country on the globe that have made a better life for themselves (usually better than mine) on their own initiative. They would be offended to be told that their only choice was to wait on external influence. I feel like I'm missing chunks of the map.”

I'm guessing that you also misunderstood my point on waiting. It isn't the waiting of “please come here and make my life better, cause I'm not bothered” - It's the waiting because nothing can be done on own initiative to begin with. As far as the map, yes sir, you are missing a chunk the size of Olympus Mons. Pick any country in the world that's not US, Canada, UK(Though they are deep down the shitter by the looks of it), Oz, NZ, or any of the similar twentyish or so westernized, so called superpowers, and you are there. That leaves you with about 90% of the world to go. If that doesn't work, I suggest you give up your life(I take it you are in one of these places too), and move to someplace like that of the Arab guy, all those hoards of people that you met or mine, and live there. You'll soon see my point. Good luck!

Aviatrix, you seem like an intelligent person, so when you screamed in delight in this post, about how wonderful it was to do this good deed, you posted that to the whole world. You have to remember that there are people who may not agree with the easiness and over appreciation of the thing, and want you to know otherwise, especially since you brought the topic into being.

Since you are obviously not interested, so I won't contact you further.

Sincerely,

Person stuck in the middle

Michael5000 said...

"You've all obviously all misunderstood the the point that I was making...."

Anonymous Dude: When everyone misunderstands the point you are making, it is not time to dump invective on them, but time to think about whether you can restate your point to express yourself more clearly.

Aviatrix and several others of us paid you the courtesy of putting time and effort into trying to understand what you were trying to say. I don't feel that this courtesy has been repaid.

Aviatrix said...

The fact that I can't help everyone, especially someone who won't even tell us what help they require, doesn't detract from my pleasure at being able to help a few people by doing nothing but remembering who lived where.

It wasn't intended as bragging: I know I'm lucky but it wasn't even my success and good fortune I was sharing. The connection cost me nothing but Internet access, something you obviously have too.

I apologize for saying you were whining. Whenever I make a post that laments my place in life and implies that someone else is more fortunate than me just because of the way the world works I label my own post whining, but I may use a broader definition of the term than you.

Some of the most inspiring stories of people helping one another or of people doing things on their own initiative come from places where I would have believed there wasn't much to do but wait for death, so without further information on your situation I simply don't believe there is nothing at all you or anyone else can do.

I am quite interested (and want to know what I said that made you think I wasn't) in your situation and in how someone who has had the opportunity to learn to read and write perfectly good English and who has daily Internet access can feel that he has no prospects at all.

I'm going to write another blog entry on the topic in a few weeks, and I hope you will come back and comment on that one, even if you don't feel you can share any details of your blighted, hopeless, existence.

Anonymous said...

Two points here. First, I'm in a profession where I'm able (and actually expected) to do some good some of the time. Sometimes I don't know I've helped people until years later when they come back & thank me. That's ok... par for the course.

But secondly, there are times when I've had some good news or a good experience, and I actually think that telling other people will make them happy for/with me. Like, at the end of an unrelated meeting the other day I said, "I just want to tell you something... I was told today that I haven't got cancer" I was happy, I wanted to share.

I took your post, Trix as a similar experience. Good on ya, gal!

Jim

Curt Sampson said...

For those interested in the validity of the anti-immigration stance, we do have other countries to which we can look to see the effect of this. Japan is one: they are quite restrictive about immigration, and, even more interestingly, now have a declining population. It will be interesting to watch what happens there over the next decade or two to see what comes of this, and whether or not they choose to maintain this policy.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Never could I have dreamed that such a simple, feel-good anecdote could engender such controversy!

As far as what PSITM, I THINK I know what it's trying to say. Not poor enough to receive charity/financial aid, not rich enough to go it alone. Well, if that's correct, I can relate, with a twist. I received little in the way of financial aid during school, due to my parents' (very modest) income. But, I also received very little 'help' from them, financially for school. I worked at least 2 jobs all the way through school, attending and working summers, as well. I took on debt, when it was unavoidable. And embarked on my dream career, with zero precedent in my family for finishing college, much less for getting into aviation.

'It' is doable for anyone in this country who isn't severely disabled in some manner. If not in aviation, in some other field. There's always a place for a hard worker. Period.


The twist?

I'm the captain that gave the tour.