In my philosophy class, we've been discussing ethical egoism, which is basically the moral theory that we should base our decisions on our own self-interest, because our self-interest should be our highest good. Part of one of the definitions we've used in class says that we "have no unchosen obligation to help other people." Generally, the theory suggests that you should help people only when it's in your own interest.

I'm glad that most people don't think this way.

For much of my trip, I relied on the kindness of strangers. This was especially true in Belgium, where I stayed with my cousins' cousins-- the relationship is distant enough that they certainly had no familial obligation to help me, especially while hosting other relatives. Yet host me they did.

And more than host me. A. went out of her way to pick me up at the train station, about an hour from her house, before she had ever met me. On the way home, we saw a young woman at a bus stop, arm outstretched and thumb up.

Most people, even those who are generally charitable, would be likely to agree that there is no moral obligation to pick up hitchhikers, especially hitchhikers who can just wait an hour or so for the bus to arrive.

A. pulled over, let the young woman in, and asked where she was headed. I don't know how long she was in the car, but I bet it was more than two miles, the recommended distance of charitable companionship in the New Testament. It was certainly longer than a comfortable walk, and as I mentioned, it might have been an hour or so before the next bus.

A. believes in helping people, believes in it as a basic and practical way. She is unlikely to receive direct benefit from many of these actions-- certainly not from picking up someone who just needed a ride to the next bus stop (this is rural Belgium, so that can be quite a distance.) The world would be a cold, sad place without people like her.

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