Ok, my cage has been rattled and, as those of you who know me know, when my cage is rattled, I don’t get angry but I do start to kind of choke on sparkles of fire drops, and then I find it very difficult to be quiet. So, here I am with another article.
Everyday, everywhere we’re willing to look, if we open our eyes, we can see poverty and conditions that can be considered less than human by today’s living standards. Whether we choose to ignore them or not, the fact remains that there are starving human beings in the world; children, men and women. The fact also remains that there are people without a roof over their heads and without clean water to drink.
We may not know their faces and we may think the problem isn’t ours. We may even think the problem is so remote from where we live that it’s none of our concern, but that’s not the case.
There is no country in this world that doesn’t have poverty or sub-human conditions. There is no country in this world that doesn’t have someone living on a park bench or under a bridge or out in the desert or in a cardboard box. Most of the time, we don’t see it or we choose not to see it because we look the other way, and we all have our reasons for doing so.
Some of us think that by looking the other way, the problem will go away. Some of us think the person on the street should get a job like the rest of us. Some of us think that by giving a euro to someone, we’re only going to be feeding their drug habit. Some of us can’t even look at a person on the street because it brings feelings of guilt about the way we live and what we have in our lives. Instead of feeling grateful for what we have, in the face of the misfortune of another, we subconsciously feel guilty.
Some of us may even feel apathetic and so saturated by all the poverty and harsh conditions out there, that we turn our backs for that very reason. I find that even sadder than poverty itself.
Yet, what disturbs me and rattles my cage the most is when people just sit around talking about tragic conditions and poverty by saying: “how tragic, how sad, makes me cry,” yet they do little or nothing to lift a finger to help relieve some of the suffering out there in the world. Of course, I am not talking about everyone, and of course there are many many people who help. I am fortunate and blessed to know plenty of them.
It would either seem that people just don’t realise how much of a difference they can actually make if they were truly willing to. Or, in the face of it all, they still do nothing. It is sad, I’m not saying it isn’t, but a starving human being doesn’t put food in his stomach with words or people sitting around feeling sympathetic. A freezing human being, living on the street, doesn’t warm up with people sitting around feeling sorry for him or turning away.
I can understand people’s apprehensions nowadays, but I’m sure if people had the choice, nobody would willing, freely or whole-heartedly opt to live in a cold, hostile or starving environment.
Yet, what we forget is that there are so many ways to help and it doesn’t always have to be with grand gestures. It doesn’t always have to be with money and it doesn’t always have to take up hours and hours of your time.
For example, if you don’t want to give the guy on the street a euro because you’re afraid he’ll go and buy drugs, go and buy him a sandwich. Think about whether it’s really about the euro and the drugs or whether it’s an excuse not to part with a possession that’s yours. Let me remind everyone that when we die, we can’t take any of it with us. Or, worse still, is it because we can’t bare the thought of being close to someone who is smelly and dirty -someone who reminds us of everything that we don’t ever want to become; our worst nightmare and the darkest side of life we couldn’t bare to face.
I can guarantee you this: when you give the guy that sandwich, if he’s hungry, he’ll be truly grateful and if you throw in a coffee, the look of gratitude he’ll give you will be priceless. It will warm your heart for years to come. In fact, you may never forget that look for as long as you live, and when he dies, you’ll remember him and know that you played your part in trying to keep him alive.
Yet, not everything is about money. The men and women sleeping on park benches and in cardboard boxes, they get cold too in winter. For those of you who like to have spring cleans and throw out old blankets, have you ever thought about asking any one of those human beings if they need a blanket, a jacket or a coat? The problem is, half the time, we’re afraid to talk to these people because most of the time we see them as less than human or even as simpletons.
Yet, less than human George may have a sad story. He may have lost his job and his wife. His children may have abandoned him. So, he feels he has nothing left to live for. He simply lives on the grass because he feels he’s at God’s mercy until death comes for him, and most of the time he wishes death would come for him. He’s grateful for any kind word anyone has to say to him in passing by the local bus stop.
The young girl, Helen, who everyone makes fun of, and who has been pushed from pillar to post between institutions, may have lost her mother and her husband prematurely to cancer and has nowhere to go. Her home may be possessed by someone who doesn’t really want her there. Her only child may have been taken away from her and she may not be allowed to see him. She too may feel like she has nothing much in life. She has food from a local shelter but what she really needs is someone to give her a kind word and put their arm around her and let her know that tomorrow will be ok.
Until we know why someone is where they are, we cannot second guess someone’s life or what they’ve been through, and trust me everyone has a story. Yet, the problem, I think, with our world is that not everyone has ears they’re willing to use. Sure, we all listen, but do we really listen?
There are so many ways to help others; distributing food to shelters; sponsoring (or adopting) children in their own countries, helping the elderly, visiting people in hospital through organisations, and the list could go on and on.
We can all donate some of our time, our love, our talent, our prayers and maybe some of our money - there are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. The important thing is to realise that everyone can make a difference if they really want to. A tiny gesture to you may mean the world to another human being.