New Straits Times - - Letters -

ALTRUISM is the act of help­ing oth­ers. We do it with­out ex­pect­ing any­thing in re­turn. For ex­am­ple, when we see the poor ask­ing for food, we give them food.

Dur­ing the Altruism Day con­ducted by my univer­sity depart­ment last month, stu­dents saw many ways to help oth­ers.

Altruism is more com­monly un­der­stood via vol­un­teerism.

A study (Hap­pi­ness, Health and Altruism by Stephen Post, 2016) sug­gested that peo­ple vol­un­teered to al­le­vi­ate their anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion be­cause help­ing oth­ers gave them joy.

See­ing some­body happy makes us feel good.

Altruism can over­ride neg­a­tive emo­tions, too. For ex­am­ple, those who like to help oth­ers are more likely to live hap­pily. While lend­ing help, one will for­get about one’s hard­ship.

A re­cent study on preschool­ers in China, who have strict par­ents, showed that those hav­ing a higher altruism level felt less anx­ious about their par­ents’ stern­ness (Child Abuse & Ne­glect, PubMed Jour­nal, Vol­ume 65, by Kwok, et al. 2017).

The study explained that chil­dren’s pos­i­tive emo­tions arose from the de­light in help­ing oth­ers and af­firm­ing their friendship with oth­ers.

This dis­pelled the anx­i­ety from think­ing too much about their par­ents push­ing them to ex­cel in school.

An­other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion is that al­tru­is­tic peo­ple are less pre­oc­cu­pied with their selves.

This can di­vert their at­ten­tion from neg­a­tive thoughts, which will fa­cil­i­tate their growth.

But, we may find that there are those who may not know the de­light in help­ing oth­ers. They are not to blame be­cause they are not used to help­ing or ask­ing for help, es­pe­cially in ur­ban ar­eas.

Phys­i­cal help is less needed in to­day’s life, which leads to the ab­sence of altruism.

Help is per­ceived as some­thing that comes from money, tools and gad­gets one owns, not from peo­ple liv­ing around us.

So­ci­ety be­comes dis­tant, and more and more peo­ple fail to grasp the de­light of help­ing.

In the days when life was much sim­pler, peo­ple re­lied on their neigh­bours for help. This pro­moted in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and led to a closely-knit so­ci­ety.

Why can’t we rekin­dle the act of help­ing each other by in­still­ing it in our young? Get­ting the young to help with chores can pre­pare them for life.

I re­call watch­ing a video clip show­ing Ja­panese school­child­ren scrub­bing their can­teen floor. The video says the school does not need jan­i­tors.

It also shows the chil­dren tak­ing turns serv­ing their school­mates who buy food and drinks at the can­teen.

Then it shows them open­ing milk car­tons to be washed by those on duty. The washed car­tons are then taken to a re­cy­cling cen­tre. While do­ing their chores, the chil­dren in­ter­act and play.

By this mea­sure, help­ing and do­ing chores should be en­cour­aged and prac­tised at home, school, col­lege and univer­sity.

Le­banese poet Kahlil Gi­bran said: “Life is all ser­vice, and I saw that ser­vice is joy.”

MEGAWATI OMAR, Academy of Lan­guage Stud­ies, UiTM, Shah Alam, Se­lan­gor

Those who like to help oth­ers are more likely to live hap­pily.

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