I finished reading In Buddha's Kitchen: Cooking, Being Cooked, and Other Adventures in a Meditation Center by Kimberly Snow this past weekend. As I was reading: I found the following passage, and it spoke to me pretty clearly:
"'Most of the relationships in our country are based on a sort of ledger model,' says Lama S. 'I make you a cup of tea, but on some level, somewhere, I'm expecting you to make me one in exchange. If a week or so goes by and I haven't gotten my cup of tea, then I start this angry little dialogue within myself about how "you" aren't fulfilling "my" needs. But any relationship that is founded on the idea that another person will make you happy is doomed from the very start. The only ones that will ever succeed are those that begin with the question "What can I do to make the other person happy?" And this motivation needs to be the ground of the relationship, not just a temporary attitude that you adopt to make yourself seem like a good person. You really can't be waiting for that cup of tea to come back to you but must learn to give freely. A cup of tea, a smile, a little kindness, there is always something that we can offer. Only through our unimpeded generosity do we become happy. ... The center of the universe has shifted a little from you to the outside. This can be done within a relationship, within the family, with the world at large. Give. Love. Help. But without wanting something back to balance the ledger. You'll find that this makes you deeply happy all the time.'" (pg. 160-161)
Give of yourself and give freely. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Not that I can't do things for myself and pursue my own interests or set limits and boundaries (although the ideal is probably to give with no boundaries).
Nevertheless, to give with no expectation of reciprocation is one of my personal aspirations.