CBS quizmaster Bob Hawk belives in humility and like Charles Lamb he likes to do good deeds without taking credit. However, he also describes some of the satisfaction he takes from doing good deeds and posits that a little selfishness is not a bad thing when done for the right reasons, what he calls "selfish humility."
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Bob Hawk worked his way through college by giving dramatic recitals of one-act plays. At the age of 18, he was teaching English in a junior high school. Later, he worked for a loan company, read poetry on the air, carried mail, sold pianos, and operated a telephone switchboard. All of this may well have prepared him for his present job as CBS Comedy Quizmaster, in which the unpredictable is the rule. Here is Bob Hawk's creed.
Charles Lamb wrote these words: 'The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth
and to have it found out by accident." Dwight Morrow once wrote to his son, "The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try if you can to belong to the first class. There is far less competition." It would be very simple for me to express in just two words most of what I believe. Of course, it's good to believe in good things. It's not so easy to admit believing in things that are not so good.
One word I believe in is humility. It's easy for me to believe in humility, because humility is a good thing. But now comes the other word. It expresses something that is very easy for me to believe in, but a little difficult to admit. The word? Selfishness.
Of course, I don't believe that being a little selfish is all bad. O. O. McIntyre said, "There is no such thing as a little garlic. But I wonder if there isn't such a thing as a little selfishness."
The desire to do something for someone else usually gives the doer a certain amount of pleasure. If I had a million dollars, which I haven't, and decided I wanted to do something with it, would I be content to send it quietly and joyfully into the night, to find its way to places I had never seen, to help people I never knew? No, I think I'd like to know. With my million, I'd like to--I'd like to buy a lot of happiness for other people
and maybe I'd like to buy a little satisfaction for myself. I'd like to be a little selfish.
I should like someday to feel that I would be willing for everything good I had ever done to never be known, and for everything bad I had done, to be known by everyone. Such a time when I'm willing for all of that will never happen. But I can still strive for complete humility and complete selflessness. During the time that I am striving, I'll settle for a mixture of the two and call it selfish humility.
I have here a copy of a letter that I have read many times. The writer of the letter is Grandma Moses, and it was written long after she had become world famous as an
artist, to one of her dear friends and critics. Here is part of that letter: "Dear Sir, I am sending you two small paintings that a nephew of mine has done. He has no training whatsoever, and this is his first attempt at this kind of work. Please express your opinion of his work. Don't hesitate to say what you think. Should he continue? Someone must take up the paintbrush when I lay it down."
Someone must take up the paintbrush when I lay it down. That's like saying someone else must learn how to make the coffee if I oversleep some morning.
That letter certainly expresses the humility I've been talking about, and perhaps a little selfishness--but what a wonderful selfishness.
Until I can find that humility for myself, I'll have to go along with Charles Lamb: "The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth and have it found out by accident." What do I believe? I believe I will have found true humility when I can say the greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth. Period.
That was Bob Hawk, CBS radio star, whose business is comedy, but whose thoughts are often serious.