I have always admired truly selfless people and been disappointed in myself that I could not better emulate them. I sincerely admire that trait in people when I come across it. I had a friend once tell me that I was the most selfish person they knew. That comment stung, until they qualified it by saying that I was also the most generous person they ever known. Her logic was that by making sure I was taking care of myself first, I was in more of a position to give to others. But that's not true selflessness. I have known people who have had nothing, give more than I, who have everything, have ever given. It's very humbling.
During my Air Force years, each and every time I was to be given an award, I always chose to pick it up from the administrative office ahead of time to avoid the fanfare of a public display. This is not to say that I shun crowds - I can perform impromptu public speaking without a second thought; those types of things do not bother me. It's the personal attention I don't care for. I wouldn't say it makes me uncomfortable as I really don't have any adverse reactions to it, I just prefer to do without it.
During the meeting I supported this past week in D.C. I was part of a small support staff to assist 600 people. I felt personally responsible for every one of them, and made myself available to ensure their well-being. I don't know why. One person alone cannot do it, but I tried. For five full days I worked myself ragged attending to the needs of people I did not know - and I never let them see anything except a smile on my face. It was tiring, but wholly rewarding. I felt drawn to serve these people the best I could.
In researching altruism on wikipedia, I came across this snippet:
In common parlance, altruism usually means helping another person without expecting material reward from that or other persons, although it may well entail the "internal" benefit of a "good feeling," sense of satisfaction, self-esteem, fulfillment of duty (whether imposed by a religion or ideology or simply one's conscience), or the like. In this way one need not speculate on the motives of the altruist in question.
This leads me to believe perhaps I'm not anywhere near skirting altruism, as I was there fulfilling a functional role as part of my job. As the IS Manager, my duties were limited to those issues which required interaction within the scope of things IT/IS related. But I didn't do just that. I did everything. Perhaps because it was my job, and I am who I am, I just refused to do anything except my best. Doing the best you can at a task you've been given isn't selflessness, and in fact could be I suppose, considered selfish. Knowing word would get back to my chain of command in hopes of retaining my position or gaining materialistically from it. But I don't think so. I found that I enjoyed giving more than was expected of me. It was fulfilling, and I feel that I've only gotten to where I am today by always having this attitude.