About two weeks ago, a coworker brought in a container (on behalf of his kids) to collect bottle tabs for the Ronald McDonald charity. I guess this is something the kids do around here? Who knew those little things would be valuable at all. I hadn’t heard of collecting them before, but it’s certainly easy enough, especially since the drinks at work are free. Why not pull off the tabs when I’m recycling a soda can? Well, one afternoon I decided to go ahead and pull the tabs off the cans in the recycle bin as well. After all, not everyone knew about the collection yet so I figured it was such a low-hanging fruit to just get the tabs from the cans that were being recycled anyway.
One of my coworkers came across me doing this and was very curious why I was doing it. Because it’s nice? Because I want to help? Because I’m a good person? Because I care? None of these answers satisfied him and he kept pressing. What was motivating me to spend time digging through the recycle (I was hardly digging, really) to pick out cans and remove the tabs? Honestly, I don’t know. It just seemed like something I could do. Perhaps it was more of the contrast between me doing that and the others at the office not. He wondered if everyone else is “not a good person” then? Why did nobody else stop to take the time to pull the tabs? Um, I still don’t know. It’s not exactly something I think about. I do what I do and I don’t go around expecting others to do it too.
Why help? Well, when I considered it, why not? Why shouldn’t you take a few moments of your time to do something for others that costs you nothing more than a few seconds or minutes? It was such a strange line of questioning and I don’t know if I’ll ever have a satisfactory answer. I do those things because I can, because it’s easy enough, because it’s little risk with good rewards for an organization. I may not have answered his question, but that doesn’t change my own justifications and how I decide to act. I sure am confused though. Why question me so thoroughly about something others would just take for granted as a nice, helpful thing to do?
He asked my why I didn’t contribute to the shoe collection downstairs. Well, that’s not as easy to accomplish. I don’t just have shoes lying around I can donate, nor do I know people I can collect them from. It’s taking advantage of a situation that I can be useful in without changing much of my own patterns. If I had old shoes I didn’t want, I would bring them in. Similarly, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy cans to drink to donate the tabs. But when they’re right in front of me, why take the easy way out and do nothing?? I mean, it’s not even something I felt I needed to justify… certainly nobody else questioned my actions!
What would you do in this situation? Would you put in your tabs and help with the others? Would you just put your own in? Would you forget to do it at all?