To my mind, one of the oddest slurs hurled against anyone is that he or she is a "do-gooder." Apparently our society has decided that it is a terrible thing to do good, although this is not what we tell our children.
Public prejudice against the "do-gooder" is enshrined in an unflattering dictionary definition --"A person who seeks to correct social ills in an idealistic, but usually impractical or superficial, way." This meaning reflects the understanding of an old proverb: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
That may be so. I have never actually been in hell -- I just remember high school algebra class.
But it occurs to me that the road to hell is more often paved with bad intentions or their close relations, which are indifference and/or arrogance. (If it's a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project, potholes may also be built into the paving.)
I reckon "do-bad-ers" with their hard hearts also help pave the road to hell, but it is only "bleeding hearts" that are seen as the problem. "Bleeding heart'' is a popular alternative epithet to "do-gooder."
Yes, bleeding hearts and do-gooders are a risible lot, annoying interferers in the tough, no-nonsense, practical-minded business of life. But I have to think that good intentions and pulsing hearts have also paved the road to heaven.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Jeff of Psychosomatic Wit reproduces this column by Reg Henry, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I've never heard of Henry before, but on the basis of this column, I may be keeping tabs on him in the future. Here's a sample: