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Doing What Counts

January 18th, 2009 | Posted by pftq in Stories | #
  Pete wiped his forehead and stepped back.  He had just finished helping an elderly woman pack luggage into her car.

  "Thank you so much," the woman said, standing back in amazement.  "You kids are doing so much these days."

  "It's no big deal," Pete chuckled, pulling out a sheet of paper from his pocket.  "Really, I should be thanking you instead."

  "What's this for?"

  "Oh, nothing.  If you could just sign it so I have proof I did this favor, that'd be great."

* * * * *

  Pete lived a simple life and was happy. Everyday he attended school and did his share for the community; he was satisfied. This year was his twelfth grade, his last year, his senior year. If he kept his head straight, he'd make it out of high school in one piece and hopefully get into a decent college.

  Pete rolled this thought through his head several times. It gave him a sense of relief and accomplishment to have gotten so far and know he was in for a good future.

  "Now as you all know, colleges look for many things in students, especially with the level of competition we have today," began Mrs. Laguil. "As a class, I'd like to complement you all for keeping up with the workload so far, but you cannot forget to perform your favors. Remember every student has to perform at least 50 favors per semester in order to graduate."

  A wave of dismay flooded a number of students' faces. One raised his hand. "But what if we don't know anyone?"

  "That's all the more reason to start getting your favors in and getting to know new people as well," Mrs. Laguil chuckled.

  Another student raised her hand. "Can it be anyone? Even our friends?"

  "Sure, as long as you do the work, it really shouldn't matter... Don't you guys think so? I mean, whether you do favors for strangers or do them for friends, you're still doing the job and getting it done. I don't think it should be a problem."

* * * * *

  "It's kind of stupid, isn't it?" said Kelly.

  "What is?" asked Pete.

  "The favors thing," said Kelly. "Not everyone has time to be doing all these things. We already have so much homework, some people have sports, others have jobs..."

  "Well it's not that bad," started Pete. "If you think about it, the favors can be anything you do for free, so I guess even the smallest things could count, which is why they made it 50."

  Pete stopped to think a bit. "I guess you could even say I'm doing you a favor right now by answering your question," he said jokingly.

  "Now that's just cheap. Well I guess you only have 49 more to go then."

* * * * *

  "You know, it wasn't always this way."

  Pete sighed; his grandfather was lecturing again.

  "Back then, we actually did things because we cared," his grandfather continued.  "We didn't need people to tell us to help others; we did so out of habit."

  "No one's telling us to do these things, Grandpa," said Pete.  "We choose to do these things.  You don't have to do favors and not everyone does."

  "If you choose to do them, then why keep track? Why measure them like you do?" his grandfather asked.

  "Because if you don't keep track, then you wouldn't know who's actually doing their share," Pete replied.  He thought this was obvious.  "You'd have people freeloading on other people's favors.  People don't have a reason to do things for others unless counts for something and they get something back."

  "Don't you think that's the problem?" Grandpa chuckled to himself as he read Pete's sheet.  "50 favors? If I kept track of everything I ever did, I'd probably have millions, maybe even billions of favors."

  "Well you can't prove them, now can you?" Pete felt as if he'd gone through the same conversation millions of times himself; he should get favors for dealing with his grandfather's constant complaints.  "If you do favors but don't keep track, how would anyone ever know you did them? They'd all be for nothing; you might as well have never done them to begin with."

  "But why does the world need to know you did them? Is it not good enough that you yourself know you helped others?"

  Pete laughed.  "And where would that get me? I'm no one."
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