Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – September 4, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – September 4, 2004 – There is an old homily that says “charity begins at home” and I sometimes wonder if that refers not only to human behaviour, but to our tendency, or lack thereof, to be generous with our time, money, kindness, friendship, compassion and humanity.
Many people are model citizens in public and tyrants at home. Historically, many nations have claimed to have the interests of the world at heart as they plundered the riches of smaller, vulnerable countries. Is this just human nature? What makes one person kind and generous and another cruel and self-serving.
I have this theory about God’s wisdom. One of his greatest gifts to humankind was free will, but along with this blessing came the responsibility of using it wisely. I see God getting up every morning and having breakfast with St. Peter. While they’re waiting for the coffee to brew, they walk over to one side of heaven and drag open the heavy, velvet curtain that cover the window on the world. St. Peter looks at God and says, “I wonder what they’ll do today?” God sighs and responds, “They have free will to choose good or evil, and consequently they’re responsible for the consequences of their actions. By the way, I’ll have double cream – one sugar today”.
So it is with our daily choice to be charitable or not. During the course of this year, I’ve thought a lot about my own level of generosity and my feelings about charitable contributions. I certainly don’t do what I’m capable of in this area of my life. As a business woman, I’ve been blessed with the necessary skills to make an excellent income. In recent years, my contributions to worthwhile causes have been negligible.
Not because I don’t recognize the need, because I’m very aware of the suffering in the world, but it doesn’t touch my life on a daily basis. It’s not easy to admit that my level of genuine caring has been sorely lacking. I’m guilty of the familiar rationalization, “I’m only one person – what can I do? If I don’t do anything, my contribution really won’t be missed”. It reminds me of the famous quote – “All it takes for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing”. I know this is a paraphrase but the point is valid.
I was watching a program this morning, in support of Amnesty International, and they were interviewing women from Pakistan, who were speaking about the accepted practice of men dousing their wives with gasoline and setting them on fire. Most of these women die. The men have been disappointed over an insufficient dowry or an imagined slight to their masculine honour. Most are never charged. The government does nothing about this barbaric pattern of behaviour, and their inaction can only be interpreted as acceptance.
Violations of human rights routinely occur in Africa, India, Afghanistan, Korea, South America, China and the Sudan to name a few countries with appalling records of human rights abuse. The world has rewarded China with the 2008 Olympics, in spite of their lack of respect for individual life. India and China are awakening economic giants and thus enormous markets for business. How quickly charity is forgotten in the face of profit. The irreverence for life continues around the globe. It takes $21.00 a month to join Amnesty International. Why isn’t every able-bodied man and woman a member. Why am I not a member?
The answer isn’t a simple one. We have become inured to violence, hunger, poverty, deprivation, cruelty, terrorism, racism and hatred. We’re not all hard of heart, but we feel hopeless and helpless at the staggering enormity of the need. We’ve all heard of the corruption within some charities around the world and are cynical about giving away our hard-earned money. We live in a fast-paced world where people can hardly look after themselves. We’re bombarded by media advertising telling us we don’t have enough, and sadly we believe it. So how can we possibly give away what we do have? In the face of tragedy at home how can we support countries abroad? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.
God gave us the tools to live in a just world and it’s up to us to make this happen. While I ponder these questions of tremendous magnitude, I know what I can do. My contribution doesn’t have to be great to have an impact on a greater good. This year I have chosen to support the Toronto Humane Society and to sponsor a child in Africa. I could also become an member of Amnesty International without any undue hardship.
You may or may not be in a position to donate money on a monthly basis – but you can write a letter, be aware of things you can do for others less fortunate just by volunteering your time and energy. Every single one of us can help by simply speaking up – words don’t cost a penny. I don’t think charity begin at home at all – it begins in our hearts!