The Thankless Job of Doing Good


These past few months have been grueling at work. Late nights working on grant proposals that would ensure my staff and I have jobs for the next four years can take a toll on a person, especially when that same staff can’t agree on what needs to go into the working document. As their boss, it is my job to ensure that each vision and idea is somehow incorporated into our proposal. When we add the complication of our executive director’s vision and how lofty the ideas may seem, it can be quite frustrating. My job in all of this is to bring one voice to a single document so it doesn’t seem like a hodge-podge of people writing it. I’ve done this for the past 20+ years of my higher education career as an administrator, so I should be used to it… or so one would assume.

I came home one night, late as usual, after a particularly difficult day feeling rather dejected and deflated. Earlier that day I had been scolded (yes, like a kid being scolded by her parent) by my boss for making a passing comment that usually wouldn’t have roused his anger. That day, unfortunately, was not a good day to make such a comment, and I was scolded in front of my staff. When I came home that night, I sat alone at the dining room table and began crying. Yes, my pride was hurt, but more than anything, I felt like I had been scolded for doing “good.” My husband walked out of the bedroom, our kids already having gone to bed, and he sat with me. Although he was half asleep himself, I poured out my heart to him. Every complaint I had ever held in over the past 20 years of working for my boss seemed to come out like emotional vomit.

I’ve done nothing but help our community and never asked for recognition.

I make him look good in front of his bosses and I never complained about being forgotten.

I work my butt off so our staff can continue to have jobs and support their families and I never expect thanks.

I go out of my way to talk to families to help them get their children through school to make better lives for the next generation.

The list went on and on for a good 5 minute tirade. At the end of it all, my husband said something so simple, yet profound.

“Go to bed momma. You’ll just have to keep doing good and not care about what people think.”


It seemed like so basic. It had me thinking about the reasons why I do what I do for others. Why do I spend so much time helping families in the low-income community? Why do I go out of my way for other people at work? Why do I care about how my boss looks in front of his own boss? The answer was simple: I do what I do so that others feel loved, cared for, and accepted, and so they won’t have to struggle like I did. I do what I do because I have been called by my God to do good.

I’ve written several blogs on doing good for others, and even mentioned a few times that being altruistic has its intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. I will simply reinforce that belief by sharing more proof that doing good is, in fact, beneficial to oneself and others. In the article Benefits of Altruism written by Elizabeth Scott, MS, for Very Well (found online at helping others has multiple benefits:

1) Psychological well-being – It’s good for your emotional health and peace of mind.

2) Increased social support – When people make personal sacrifices for the sake of doing good, that good often comes back to them in the form of favors from others. So basically, what goes around, comes around.

3) Keeps things in perspective – Helping others in need, especially those less fortunate than you, can provide a sense of perspective on how fortunate you are. Whether it be health, money, or a safe place to sleep, you focus less on the things you feel you lack and more on what you have.

4) Building a better community – By doing nice things for others, you enable them to do nice things for others in turn, and the phenomenon grows beyond you.

5) Helping others is a stress reliever – Studies have shown that the act of giving can activate the area of the brain associated with positive feelings, lifting your spirits, and making you feel better the more you give.

Perhaps the best piece of advice, however, is actually referenced in The Last Prophet book series. Although the main character of the book series delivers her messages of hope, and does so anonymously, she continues to do the good work set for her to accomplish. The reason why? It is not up to her to see the end results of the good work she does or even receive praises and thanks for the hope she has given. It is only her duty and calling to DO the good work. Those who hear her messages are responsible for taking action once she has delivered it. In essence, what we do with the knowledge and gift we have been given is up to us. It is no longer the responsibility of the one who gave us that knowledge or gift. WE are the ones who must choose to act or not act. The choice is ours.

After my good cry at the dining room table, and my husband gently guiding me to our room so I could rest for the night, I laid my head on my pillow knowing that I had done good work. I woke the next morning also feeling affirmed that I was doing good for the sake of doing good. Whether I am thanked or recognized for my good deeds is irrelevant. What is relevant is the actual act of doing the good work.Happy Thanksgiving

As we enter the coming season of being thankful, let us reflect on the people and things we are grateful for in our lives. What good work will you do today? What are you grateful for? Comment in the space provided.

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