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Thank you! And a few reflections on recognition.

A few days ago, while I sat at the desk in my summer cabin, an unexpected storm swept in. It was a really bad storm, and when it subsided, a big tree had fallen, blocking the road to the little neighborhood where the cabin lies. Some of my neighbors, who are quite senior, needed to get past the tree and could not move it, so I decided to help. I went out with a chainsaw and quad bike, and soon the road was clear.

The entire exercise took me about two hours, and it was an overall pretty pleasurable experience, getting a break from work and being out in nature working with my body. However, afterward, I was flooded with gratitude, as if I had done something truly praiseworthy. Several neighbors came to thank me, telling me what a very nice young man I was, some even brought small gifts, and I heard people talking about what I had done for days afterward.

This got me thinking.

My first thought: These are very nice people, and it is obviously kind of them to come and thank me. But it seems a little off - when I tell them what I do every day, what I dedicate my life to, most of them nod politely and move on to talk about the weather. It seems bad and unfair that when we do something immediately visible and easy to grasp, recognition and gratitude come pouring in, but when we engage in work that is indirect, more abstract, and potentially with far-reaching consequences, the acknowledgment isn’t as forthcoming.

My second thought: But wait a minute. Here I am, sitting brooding over the behavior of others. Am I any better? What have I done to express gratitude to all of the amazing people out there in the world working on what they think is the most important thing without getting any recognition? Not much.

My third thought: I should do something about this.

To all of you, from the bottom of my heart - thanks! The tasks you dedicate yourselves to might not garner instant applause or make the evening news. You might not receive heartwarming thanks every time you make a contribution, but I want to tell you that I see it, I value it, and I am profoundly grateful for it.

When talking to people in the effective altruism community, I often get a first reaction of confusion, almost suspicion; why is this great person with so many opportunities pouring their soul into a low-paying job that involves lots of hardship and where they don’t get much public appreciation? Then the simple yet profound answer dawns on me; oh yeah, it is because they are primarily driven by a deep commitment to do good the most good, not other niceties. Wow. Super wow.

If you feel like there is an unsung hero out there, consider sending them your gratitude.

(Note - I am not saying that recognition should be a main motivator for doing good. But getting and sharing appreciation is nice, and I think it can help build motivation.)

Great reflections. 
Agree that recognition and the associated feelings of gratitude should not be the main thing. But still, thanks to all of you who decide to pursue things that seem the best and perhaps even giving up on some version of your passion, the praise, and status you'd get if you acted less altruistic and rationally.

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