It’s been a wonderful week for human interaction. ISIS is slashing throats. The Israelis and Arabs are killing each other. We have the myriad of serial killers, hostage takers and lone wolves. If you watch the news blood and gore sells and we are going down the toilet. Even Charles Manson is taking out a wedding license. Geez Louise.
Excuse me while I go to the other end of the spectrum. There was a surgeon who died of Ebola. Doctors Without Borders volunteer not hours but months in a hard hit area. There are religious of all sorts who are not hell bent on killing people but saving them in hospitals, orphanages and schools. People here man food banks and banks of rivers to keep them from flooding their neighbors.
While I was giving platelets last week I was thumbing through the Robb Report. It thrives on the materialistic life style and ostentatious. Store after store has been announcing an earlier than ever opening on Thanksgiving to give you a leg up on buying crap for Christmas. But then the likes of Bill Gates and Bono give like there is no tomorrow. Are we all cut from the same cloth or did one of us get saint dust and the other an evil serum to determine how we would look at life?
I am leaving deviant behavior on its own. I want to understand altruism, charity and empathy. I want to understand how people can go beyond a few hours a week and sometimes volunteer for their entire lives. Not with a sense of duty but true joy at helping their fellow man.
It must take a wonderful person to be altruistic. It is the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.Sounds lofty enough but think about it. You are putting someone else’s needs completely ahead of yours. It is the opposite of selfish and says somehow I am going to make your day better. I don’t matter. You do. You spend your whole day where your radar is pointing outward and not within. Is it just me or is that incredible stuff. I am not sure I can even come close.
Easy TTG, these people are of a special breed. Must have been their upbringing. Probably had very special parents. Maybe there was some particular moment where they got struck by a bolt of lightening. Maybe there is a different way to look at this than holier than thou art. Perhaps we can adjust our sights.
I get worried about our world today. Cell phones, internet, cyber cafes, all claim to help make us more connected. Do they? You hear stories of guys spending hours on end on their computers without ever seeing the light of day or a breath of fresh air. I can shop online. Don’t have to talk to a salesperson. No bank tellers. We will soon be to a point where we won’t have to see a doctor. Just put your IPhone next to your epidermis and we will have it all figured out. We will send you your meds and voila you are healed.
Now if I don’t know what you look like or sound like then you are just bits and bytes to me. You are no longer a person. I don’t care what happens to you because you never physically invade my world. The anonymity of all this says the only person I really have to be worried about is me. No feeling. No emotion. No empathy. Just keystrokes on my IMac.
I have a bad habit of asking when I go to Starbucks if people say please or thank you. The highest percentage I got was in Madison, NJ at 30% and the worse was Edwards.CO where it was 0%. Now if I feel for you and understand who you are and that you matter in the world how can I do that? I was in Sienna Italy and Kathy and I were checking out. The girl behind the desk thanked me. I said for what? She had been in a bad mood all morning and when I came up to the desk with a big smile on my face she said she really felt better. She was cute and Kathy belted me. Told me charity begins at home. Just kidding.
So what I am really saying is we all can’t go to Angola or join the Peace Corps even if we wanted to. The Mormons take a year off to proselytize. That’s a stretch. But how many of us who are retired could spend some time somewhere helpful. Writing checks is wonderful but how about getting our hands dirty? Could a mom or a dad help out at an inner city school ? Could you just rake some little old lady’s leaves? Over 60 million people volunteered last year. Big number but still just 20% of the population.
Busy? Giving blood takes about a half an hour. You couldn’t possibly spend and hour or two at a food bank could you? Maybe your local park or river could use some TLC. This thing called charity can wear a lot of faces. How about just holding a door for someone. Instead of yelling at a service tech or waiter what about saying I feel your pain. Corny? Deep down do you really think so?
Generosity, forgiveness and unlimited love are probably the antithesis of laissez faire and caveat emptor. Prosocial sounds a hell of a lot better than antisocial. Am I in the spirit this season? Not quite but at least I think I am pointed in the right direction. Who are these people? No different than you and me.
Ted The Great LOFO
There have been 215,000 volunteers in the Peace Corps in its 50 years of service spanning 139 countries.
Doctors Without Borders sign up for a tour lasting from 3 months to a year. They performed of 77,000 surgical interventions, helped birth thousands of babies, manned a burn center in Haiti, worked in the war of Syria and inoculated millions.
Americans give an average of $2974 per family per annum and that amounts to 2% of our GDP. $335 billion. 2/3 is given by individuals, 5% by corporation and 15% by foundations. The rate of giving is actually a horseshoe with the very poor and very rich giving 4% of their income and the middle around 2 1/2%.
40% of Americans are capable of giving blood but only 10% do so. It’s amazing how that 20-25% participation in these things keeps cropping up.