If helping the needy is a source of happiness, why don’t we do so? What makes us deprive ourselves of such a rare experience as happiness?
The truth is that we are selfish and want to help only ourselves. Any help we extend to others is part of the process of helping ourselves. We try to assess if the other person can be of some help to us in some manner at some point of time. If the answer is positive, we become helpful, pat ourselves and expect others also to recognize our virtue. We make a conscious effort to extend help in the presence of eye-witnesses who can help build our image. Unnoticed benevolence is like an excellent performance in an empty auditorium.
Having helped a person once, we are very eager to give him an opportunity to return the favour. The other person, however, may not help us if he is confident that we no longer have the capacity to help him again. It is not what we did in the past, but what we are capable of doing in the future that determines whether he is going to help us. Therefore, if the process of mutual help has to continue uninterrupted, none must lose the capacity to help the other.
When some stranger seeks our help, we collect information from all possible sources to ascertain his position and power. We want to be sure that we do not end up wasting our time and energy on someone who is in no position to reciprocate. If the person seeking help is powerful, we feel obliged to have got a chance to help him. We become so eager to help and so submissive that others may get confused as to who is helping whom.
Your experience may be very different if you help someone who seems to have no potential to help you. Shunned by everyone, he will never forget what you did for him. Situations keep changing. Who knows, some day, you may be left with few friends and desperately in need of help. He may then be in a position to bail you out. Even if situations do not change, you never know. As they say, what is the use of a sword where a needle is needed?