Monday, February 22, 2010

On Selfishness

Mo as you know is one of my senior buddies. This week, he and I were scrolling through the class’ Facebook page, and I said almost without thinking, see how you are inspiring all these young people?

Guess what he told me? “Oh, I don’t know about that aspect of it. I just know what this means to myself. This class got me to do something I really should have done a long time ago. Write things down. Think about things. And you know, all this got me thinking that I should’ve taken the time to have these conversations with my own grandparents before they passed.” We talked for a while about all this. “Like I tell my four daughters,” he added, looking straight into my eyes, “it’s ok to be selfish sometimes.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what he said in the past few days. I don’t think he was trying to be modest. We're too close for that. He was being honest. His fuel is personal.

There is a sweet spot when selfishness equals personal drive. I think that's what Mo meant. So I've been thinking, if it’s ok to be selfish, what is my fuel? What keeps me pumped about our storytelling class week after week? Why am I so excited right this second as I'm typing on this blog?

For me it comes down to something very simple. I love talking with my grandma on my phone. I live in Philadelphia; she lives in Seattle. Our ages are fifty-nine years apart. But on the phone, distance disappears. It feels like we’re two schoolgirls giggling side by side on a swingset. Our friendship opens my heart up, and I want to do everything I can to hold onto that feeling and grow it bigger. In Chinese, which is the language we talk in, “open-heart” translates to mean happy.

If all it takes for me to feel happiness is to get on the phone with my grandma every other night and hang out at the senior center once a week, if it’s that easy, of course I’ll do it! If along the way, other people get “inspired” to listen along and reach out to the seniors in their lives, awesome. If along the way, seniors gain joy in any way, amazing. If along the way, it has taught me and any of my peers to think positively about aging and even look forward to it (I am turning thirty this year, not old but not young), hey, why not. If along the way, the project grows larger than myself (at last check our blog readership has reached 400 a month), larger than I can wrap my head around, I’ll challenge myself to grow with it.

Because if it’s ok to be selfish, I’ll go ahead and say it: I am collecting seniors’ stories and sharing them simply because it makes me happy.