After a long journey, the train conductor stopped by my cabin to say that we are getting closer to the final leg of my five day long trip.
Mr. Tubbs was his name, tall black man of his late fifties, I would say,… a pleasant beaming smile never left his face throughout the trip from DC, to southern Indiana.
His deep blue suite hung on his body as if it was tailor made for him, very clean crisp white shirt and a black necktie, rested very comfortably on his chest, and on his feet, he wore black spit shine shoes, and a clean white pair of socks, as if they where an extension of that white shirt. Few light gray hairs proudly accented his otherwise black kinky head, always covered by his black cap; except for few moments when Mr. Tubbs applied his white handkerchief to wipe off little beads of perspiration from his forehead and along his neck.
And, in spite of those hot summer days, and humid nights, Mr. Tubbs never lost his cool, he took a great deal of pride in his job, never mind the meager pay, Mr. Tubbs seem to be very greatly appreciated, and likewise handsomely rewarded by many, if not all his admirers, the passengers whom he generously and graciously served on his train.
Go ahead… ask me… I said to him.. as he stood at the door of my suffocating small cabin.
He let out a big grin; his eyes began to sparkle; his clean white teeth added yet another glow to his face..
How did you know.. that I was going to say something..
You are very sharp young man, I say.. and, yes.. if you don’t mind me asking… ??
Go ahead.. ask.
Why on earth would you take the train from DC. all the way to Indiana ,when you could have take any flight to Indiana.
Well, now.. many people asked me that very same question, my friends my advisor, even my roommates, and co- workers at VOA. They all thought I was crazy…
Mr. Tubbs, burst with a big laugh and clapped his hands, then said…I don’t think you are crazy…
No I’m not, I want to see what’s in-between here and there, what’s behind those hills and valleys, the countryside, the small towns and hamlets, I want to make those short stops, see the green grass and the Tobacco fields I read about, I don’t want to be transported like a piece of cargo from big city to another looking down on this vast land beneath the clouds..!
Mr. Tubbs, I want to see the real American people, the way they live.. every day living .
I saw, poverty in Baltimore, and the depressing parts of Washington, and I saw how the poor whites live in Appalachia , and how the poor blacks live in the small cities and towns, all the hidden shacks, all isolated, insolated from the critical eyes of the world, all here, in the richest country, in the land of the plenty.. this is why I took the train, Mr. Tubbs…
You do that young man… he said, you will learn a lot about this country, and then… what are you going to do with all that learning…? Put it to good use… you hear…
Many things, many people, and events, have, from time to time left a profound impression on our lives. For me, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King,, and Mr. Tubbs, to name a few.
So, when one becomes actively involved in many volunteer groups, dedicating part of one’s life, and free time to serving others in need, and indeed learning from those whom we served, guided by those everlasting words, of the late Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the creative light of altruism, or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s persistent and most urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others..? “
In its purest form, altruism is the giving of one’s self to others. The concept of altruism, however, can be easily convoluted with the Idea of “egoism” , a result of the overwhelmingly satisfying emotions charity brings to the person; but this sentiment, if driven by altruism, is merely a byproduct or side-effect of the act of charity and not the impetus of one’s self, is the motive behind the behavior, Habitat for humanity, Red Crescent, Red Cross, Care, volunteering to care for the elderly, and the sick, helping the less fortunate, and many other acts to lift the burden, and ease the suffering , of others.
Nothing can compare to the altruistic experience, which you gain from becoming an active contributor as Reporters without borders, Doctors without borders, Teachers without borders, Farmers, Carpenters, College professors as well as Students, one learns more about hope and resilience from those we serve, than in all four years of structured learning environment, Young and old, rich and not so rich, people from all walks of life, living, working, and learning in those far away remote places, all driven by the selfless act of charity towards others, and witnessing first hand the amazing extraordinary ability of children to extract joy and happiness from the depths of poverty, and the worst living conditions, and they marvel at the most basic things that other children take for granted, those smiles, and those young faces will propel one to do more and give more in the true sense of an altruistic person.
So, what have you done to help others…?
No matter what part of the world you occupy…what city, town or village, or, what level of education you may have attained, or profession, or, how high or low your income level, there is always room for one more true volunteer to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate…it is the ultimate act of selflessness “ Altruism “
Abdulhamid Ben Hameda
Former News Correspondent