Altruism by Will Rivers
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Altruism is a relatively new term for me.  The act of being Altruistic is not new, but as a child I was never told to be Altruistic.  Being reared in a Christian home in the South I was always taught that it is better to put others first and sometimes it is alright to do without so others can be more fortunate.  In a roundabout way I was being taught to be Altruistic, but it was never referred to as such.   

A couple of weeks ago my wife went outside on the back porch and returned to inform me that a beagle and a pig were wondering around our property over by the chicken coop.  I looked at her in disbelief, but sure enough there was a little pig out there.  The beagle did not hang around, but she was able to secure the pig in hopes of finding its owner. My wife and I have a female landrace hog that weighs approximately 400 lbs.  The little stray pig was a potbellied pig that only weighs about 40 lbs.  As my wife and I debated on what we were going to do with this little pig, we decided that we would put her in the pen with our hog.  I was leery at first, because of the size difference between the two, but after no time the two were hanging out like old friends.  The next day I went over to the pen to check on them and the large hog was lying on her side. The little pig had climbed up and was lying on top of her, both were sleeping peacefully.  After seeing that, I thought to myself, what a display of intra-species Altruism.  I guess they both needed the companionship that the other had to offer.  We put the word out around the neighborhood and even found the owners of the pig, but they never came to claim the little potbellied pig, so we kept her for our own.  Another thing that I found interesting is that even though they are like long lost friends, when it comes feeding time the larger hog is quick to let the little pig know that she is the boss.  They share companionship, but don’t share food.  This reminds me of what we learn about genetics in animals and being protective of resources. 

I have also noticed a change in my own dogs’ behavior when my wife and/or I are sick, or feeling down.  It seems that they tend to be a little less demanding when they sense this.  I have even noticed and they can be more comforting at times also.  There have been occasions when my wife has been upset and crying, due to hearing bad news or whatever the case may have been.  I have seen our dogs come to her and show her love and affection rather than demanding attention from her as they often do.  In my eyes this is a display of inter-species Altruism, the dogs seem less concerned with themselves and more concerned about us.  When I think about the concept of Inter-species Altruism I often think about therapy dogs.  Without this Altruistic behavior, I don’t see how a therapy dog could be.  For a canine to sense that a Veteran with P.T.S.D. is in need of attention, love, and comforting, is simply amazing.  I once saw a documentary were a Veteran with P.T.S.D. would often have nightmares about the experiences he had in Iraq.  His service dog would sense this, wake up and then wake its owner up from the nightmare.  Think about this for a second.  How many people do you know that would get out of their bed to help you? 

As a child I remember that my brother and I never went without.  We had no concept of how little money my mother and father had.  They always ensured that our Birthdays or Christmases would be the most memorable times for us.  It wasn’t until I got older that I realized just what my mother and father did to make these things happen for us.  I understand now that the occasion has nothing to do with gifts and such, but as a ten year old little boy, how would my parents explain that to me.  Instead my father would borrow money, bounce a check, or pawn something to ensure he had the means to give my brother and me a good Christmas.  He did these things knowing how hard he would have to work to pay the money back or despite the trouble he could have gotten into for writing a bad check.

Several years ago I worked as the Foreman in a local machine shop.  We were not the type of machine shop that builds race car engines and such, but the type of machine shop that is referred to as a “job shop”.  We serviced the farm industry, logging industry or any other person that needed our services.  Our services ranged from the building and fabricating of custom equipment to the repair of old obsolete equipment.  We welded, machined parts, built and repaired hydraulic cylinders and many other things.  The day to day operation of the shop was my responsibility.  It was my job to ensure things were getting done and that they were done in a timely manner.  With that responsibility came the necessity to work with and manage people.  This is one of the most demanding jobs I have ever performed.  How do you teach someone to have pride in their work or that the job is more than just a paycheck on Friday?  I found that to be the hardest thing to deal with.  Day after day I would tell the guys the same thing I told them the day before and they still wouldn’t do as they were instructed, or would ask me the same question tomorrow that I answered the day prior.  One day a guy that worked for me was fixing a shaft from the Saw Mill.  The bearing diameter on the shaft had worn down and it needed to be welded up and turned back down.  Now, when I say shaft I am talking about a shaft that was about six feet long and was about six inches in diameter in the middle with the ends being smaller at about two and seven sixteenths round.  They guy did the job and it just so happened that he finished about the time we closed for the day.  He clocked out and left, me being Foreman did not leave until the work was done.  I went to the shaft and checked the bearing diameter and he had turned too much off.  The bearing diameter was about .005 of an inch undersize.  The human hair is only about .003 of an inch, but when we are talking about bearing diameter .005 of an inch is tremendous.  The next day he had to work on it again.  Keep in mind that he had already spent six hours on a job that should have taken four hours tops.  What could I do, the shaft had to be fixed so I bit my tongue and just told him to fix it.  He did and when I went back to check it for the second time it still wasn’t correct.  By this time I was not a happy camper.  To make a long story short, he still did not get it right on the third shot and I ended up staying after everyone went home to fix it myself.  After I had done the work I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out the bill and how I could salvage the relationship with the customer that was not happy because it had taken so long.  There was no way I could charge the customer for the time that was spent fixing this shaft, they would have had a cow.  At first I thought to myself, I don’t need a guy that I have to go behind and fix his mistakes, I might as well do it myself.  I wanted to fire him, but then I started thinking about other things.  If I fire him what are the chances that the next guy would be any different.  I will probably end up hiring someone that doesn’t even know the things this guy knows and will have start from scratch.  Then I thought about all the people that depend on this guy’s job.  It wasn’t just him.  It was his wife, his child, and his grandchild.  Not to mention the bank that owns the note on his house, car, etc.  At the end of the day, I needed to ensure the work got done, but there were a whole lot more that needed that guy to stay employed.   

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