Thursday, August 4, 2011

Today I Was Staggered By Generosity

Let me start off by saying that I am proud to be a part of an online community of Gen-Y Mamas who are simply amazing people. Even though I have only been a part of it for three months or so, I watch these women help each other with diapering issues, help each other find diaper covers that they are in search of, and help each other find good deals for diapering, and I am amazed that a group of women who don’t know each other in-person are so amazingly helpful. I don’t know a handful of people in real life who are so helpful honestly, so to have a whole group of them online is just astounding.

This week we were told that a group member was having some financial difficulties, and that diaper covers in the older prints would be auctioned off with the proceeds going to this member. Mamas were excited at the opportunities to both help and to get an older print diaper. If you don’t understand why they were excited, think about something you collect or something you know others collect. Then imagine that you sat around and talked to other collectors about this thing, and someone came and told you you had an opportunity to get a rare collector’s item – you’d be excited too. Auctions were scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but other Mamas started auctioning off their own stash of diapers and covers on Wednesday with the proceeds going to our group member. The psychologist in me was interested. The Gen-Y Mama in me was pretty flippin’ excited.

As a psychologist, I watched my community raise money for a member today with an interested eye. I waited for the first auction to start, wondering just how much people would “donate.” I personally had an amount preset in my head of how much I was going to donate regardless, and I figured I would throw in my preset amount at some point on an auction and see if I won. If I didn’t, I would simply donate it and be happy with that. I expected things to get a little crazy but not too much so. I figured people would go up to $50 per cover honestly. But then things got a little more than crazy. Mamas were bidding like they had unlimited funds. $10 - $20 - $40 for one cover in under a minute. The psychologist in me was perplexed. We talk about ourselves as “collectors” (not addicts), and these collectors were out for those out of print (OOP) and hard to find (HTF) prints with their PayPal waving in the wind.

As a Mama, I watched these auctions today and thought, “Holy *expletive*, are you kidding me?!” I love me some Gen-Y and some cute covers, for sure, but…wow. One print/cover went for $100. $100. These things sell for $16.99 each (well obviously the current prints do). $100 is groceries for the week for us. I don’t think I could do that. On the other hand, I could give $100 to a friend and not expect it back, so I guess that getting an OOP/HTF cover would be a nice thing to get WHILE helping a friend. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s an online community (in which most members have never met face-to-face) that amazed me. We all help each other online and give each other good deals (and make it right when something goes wrong), which is amazing for any community (online or not). And we all love Gen-Y and super cute diaper covers on our little ones’ tushies, but $100?! Wow.

Interestingly, today in class I talked with my students about the definition of altruism. Since altruism loosely means helping others with no expectation of getting anything in return, a student asked me if I believed that true altruism actually exists. This is something that has been debated by psychologists for years, and my view has always been that since a person feels good about themselves (or at least receives a subconscious boost in mood) after helping then true, by-the-book-definition, altruism cannot exist. We always get something (even if it’s a good feeling), and thus helping others for no reason except to help them cannot exist because we receive that boost in mood. Do I wish for true altruism? You bet. But have I seen it or did I ever expect to? Not in my lifetime.

And you’re probably thinking I’m overthinking this, but that’s what I do. The psychologist never sleeps. She’s always trying to understand “why.” Sure there’s excitement there about diaper covers. And it’s definitely for a good cause; this member’s an amazing and helpful Mama. We are a helpful bunch anyway. Add all those things together though and I still can’t come up with the amount of money I watched Mamas offer to spend today via the auctions. But I also have to keep in mind that people from this same group have done this for other members and even for me – I have been amazed at one Mama in particular who was generous in offering to help me continue cloth diapering Silas who seems to be growing out of diapers at an exponential rate (he’s 15 months and in size XL – no joke). All of the theories of altruism that I’ve learned cannot explain this. And thinking about that brings tears to my eyes because it means that maybe, just maybe, true, by-the-book altruism does exist, just as I’ve always wished it has (but was told by others and my science that that belief was na├»ve).

So I want to thank all of those amazing Mamas who played along today. Thank them for their donations to our member and for being an amazing community for sure, but mostly for giving me a glimpse of what I thought I would never see – true, by-the-book altruism at work.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time. If you followed my previous blog, you may recognize it:

“But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you.” –Valerie (V for Vendetta, 2006)


  1. That is so awesome! What's the link to the group? I'd love to be a part of it. I just bought two new FuzziBunz one size and can't remember what I did to "break them in" wash-wise.
    I've always heard that there aren't good people in the world anymore, but you and I know that simply isn't true. Thank goodness for good people.