Monday, April 11, 2011

Fighting My Selfish Drive

Last week I had two bummer moments: my TV died and someone hit my car.

I don't watch much TV and what little I do watch, I can get online. When I lived without a TV in the past, my house was cleaner, I got more sleep, and I read more books. If I'm honest with myself, I don't really want to replace my TV. But when I think about how other people will react, I change my mind. Professional 20-somethings are supposed to have a nice size flat screen in their home.

The damage to my car is minimal and entirely cosmetic. But no doubt it will eat up my $500 deductible to repair. It bugs me a little - seeing this "black eye" every time I get in the car. But it bugs me more to think about what other people think. Do other drivers look at me and wonder why I haven't gotten this fixed? Do they wonder if I'm poor? Do they think I'm a bad driver?

I have money in my checking account to replace my TV and fix my car. I could take care of both of these problems with no strain on my budget. But if I have that much money just sitting around - not in a retirement account, not set aside for emergencies - why on earth haven't I given it to people who really need it?

If I feel so much shame over a broken TV and a dinged up car, but I can only imagine the emotions felt by a women living with a fistula. A fistula is a hole between the vagina and the bladder, often caused by early childbearing or violent rape, and 2,000,000 women in the developing world have them. A fistula means a lifetime of urine constantly dribbling from the vagina, where you can never get clean, where you always smell foul. A woman with an untreated fistula will never be married or will be left by her husband: she will have no financial stability. Each of these 2,000,000 women in the developing world live a life of incredible suffering and shame due to untreated fistulas, forced into lifelong poverty because they were forced into sex or forced into pregnancy before their bodies had fully developed. The reason we don't hear about fistulas in developed countries is that they are easily treatable through surgery.

The surgery costs $450.

I am sick to my stomach that I know about this problem, I know how to help, and I'm still thinking about fixing a cosmetic problem on a car. Is there one good reason, one sound argument, why I should choose to repair a car instead of repairing a human life? And if there is, does it make it right? Does it make it moral? Does it help me be the person I think I should be?

I'm disgusted at my own selfishness - that I've been thinking about this choice for a week, and haven't acted in the way that I know to be right. I can't help but think that this would be easier if I lived in a culture that valued action over appearance, that valued lives over things.

I think I just need some encouragement. Tell me to give!!!

If you want to learn more, NOVA did an incredible documentary called "A Walk to Beautiful" on this issue.

If you want to help, consider giving to The Fistula Foundation, a highly ranked, transparent, and effective nonprofit funding doctors and hospitals that repair fistulas. That's where I know I need to give, if I can just find the moral courage to do it.

-Selfish Blogger


  1. Very powerful. I know I don't give enough. I have always thought that once I have no more loans and debt I could give. I don't know what would be the best thing to do, but the longer I avoid paying for student loans the less I can give overall... right? Or is my logic faulty.

    Either way, I am full heartily enjoying your blog.

  2. I have no idea why you call yourself selfish, it seems quite the opposite. But if you are this motivated to give, I encourage you to do so. I think you'll be glad you did. And you can always fix the car or buy a new TV later on, if it really continues to bother you. Right now it seems like your inclination to give is bothering you more.

    I've been driving with cosmetic damage to my car for a couple years now. No big deal :)

  3. Hi Claire! I have enjoyed reading a few of your posts. I don't really have any clear advice, just a thought.

    I have always thought it was wrong to kill animals and eat them. But I still eat them. I don't necessarily feel that everyone should stop eating meat, but the fact that I personally think it is wrong, but still do it, really bothers me. I dont think that everyone else is bad for eating meat, only that because of how I feel about an animals life I have a responsibility to act differently than other people. I think that causes a moral dilemma for me, making me guilty when perhaps other people doing the same thing, are not.

    I don't think you are selfish btw. I think you can help other people and do something nice for yourself too! Thank you for getting me thinking

    Love, Annette Chapman (Brecheisen)

  4. I really relate to your blog postings. Working at a non-profit (an arts non-profit too actually!) has really changed my perceptions on 'stuff'. I look around my apartment and I have so much STUFF. And I don't remember the times I bought most of these things and I don't use the majority of these things regularly. It has changed my mindset on the things we each actually really NEED.
    I try to ask myself a question when I fork over cash for something. Will I remember where this money went a month from now? A year from now? When I spend it on something really worthwhile I will remember exactly where that money went (granted sometimes it's just a tank of gas or a quick bite).
    My point being, when you spend money on worthwhile things you are spending consciously and thoughtfully, and you will remember what that money went to. Follow your gut, it's usually right.


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