Like much of the world, I watched Squid Game on a streaming service. In this extremely violent series, hundreds of financially desperate South Koreans play children's games where the loser is immediately executed and the winner has a chance to become fabulously rich.
The players show treachery, viciousness, and, occasionally, great kindness. Their desperate risk-taking usually ends in death.
Those are fictional characters, but real people also become desperate. For instance, some highly depressed individuals intentionally kill themselves. Their death ends their misery but may cause psychological harm to close others.
Some desperate individuals take other paths in the desire to end their misery, even if only for a brief while. These folks use crystal meth, heroin, or some other dangerous drug. The result, sometimes, is death by overdose. More often, the result is a life of woe. Other desperate people commit crimes. They want money and feel that they have little to lose. Their outcome is often imprisonment.
Refugees make up a big group of desperate individuals. They have the wrong religion or ethnic background or something for where they live, so they risk everything in the hope of starting over in a new land. Some win, some lose.
I have not interacted much with individuals in the desperate groups I have mentioned. But I have interacted with students desperately competing for entry into graduate training programs and not doing well. A few complain, cheat, or plagiarise.
These students do not end up dead or locked up, but they may end up like Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who recently became embroiled in a student-plagiarism scandal 20 years after receiving his degree.
Desperate people tend to take desperate actions. They feel trapped and see no good alternative to taking a grave risk.
If we can help one desperate person find a safe path out of a bad situation, we do a great deed. Imagine how happy you would be if someone helped save you in your time of despair.
Easier said than done to help a desperate person, you say? Correct. If great deeds were easy, many people would do them. Part of the greatness of these deeds is in their difficulty and rarity.
The consequences of a great deed are not just for the person helped. The great-deed doer enjoys the consequences of standing taller, smiling more, and feeling warmly connected to humanity.
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