Saturday, February 4, 2017

Peace, love and bla bla

red paint heart palm hands art "He who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart. He who is not a conservative at 40 has no head." 

Apparently it wasn't Churchill who said this.  But rather some French statesmen.

At any rate, it's something my mom quoted to my sister and I quite a lot in our youth.

I am now approaching 43 and find myself still closer to the liberals (#!+@ing liberals, for some of you out there) on most issues, at least in the US.  I am slightly more conservative in France where people already have quite a good social and health care system.

The thing is, there is a difference between saying you care about other people and really caring.

I say I care about the poor, the homeless, those discriminated against, the war refugees.  But what do I do on a daily basis besides occasionally give money to charities or someone on the street?

I often find myself skeptical, wary, of the alcoholic beggar, reasoning more with my head that he'll just spend my euro on alcohol.  So occasionally I have given food instead.

Or the woman who seems to be a gypsy at the intersection who has a ten-year old boy begging with her.  In cold or rain.  My skeptical head says she and her boy are being manipulated by some kind of mafia and my euros will go to the head of that mafia and not her and her child.

But when another gypsy approached me as I loaded groceries in my car and asked for money I gave her a banana and a pack of ultra-sterilized milk.  She immediately pointed to my old boom box in the trunk that I use for work and asked for it, too. I told her I "no" as I needed it for work.

I said to myself I would do something for the refugee camps set up in my region of France.  Instead of going on site (which frankly seemed a bit scary to me) I gave food and toiletry items to the Red Cross.

And when I think about it, I pray for those suffering and in need.

I'm not saying these things to get congratulations.  Frankly they are small gestures compared to those who drop everything and travel across the world to help refugees in Greece or humanitarian aid workers and doctors in Africa or the Middle East.  I have never quite been that involved.  I have never been so brave.

I am just wondering out loud and to you, how does one put their money where their mouth is when it comes to caring?

In our current world climate of holier-than-thou on both sides of the political spectrum, where is the path to, for lack of a better word, righteousness?  No, earnestness.  No, kindness.

Until I figure it out, I will try to be the kindness I seek.

With a smile to the old man who takes a long time crossing the street.  By letting the lady with just two items go in front of me at the supermarket.  By looking kindly at women wearing hijabs or striking up conversations with people from all backgrounds.  By teaching my daughter not to call other children "fat" or that she should play with all the kids in her class.

Kindness and caring are not weaknesses.  They should come naturally.  We all just need a little practice.


Lindle said...

Good topic. I think you are right about showing you care about your fellow man/woman by actions, however small. And I think going local is the best place to start---volunteering, donating to something you KNOW is a need and researching the organization to make sure your hard-earned money isn't going to an administrator's office or advertising.

I get frustrated with my donations sometimes (other than Doctors Without Borders---because I KNOW they use the majority of the money for on the ground services).
I often start receiving a barrage of paper mail and emails begging for more money when I JUST GAVE to some charities! I look at all the letters, envelopes, and glossy pics they send of tear-streaked children in horrible living conditions and think they could have used some of the money on the kids rather than the publishers of their advertising.

Nothing is too small of a gesture of kindness. That lady who wanted your CD player after you just gave her food was wrong. You feel used after an encounter like that. I know I've been manipulated by many beggars holding children, but I want them to get the child off the street!

And it's not just that some people evolve into a more conservative outlook as they age--it's often a protective response from having been abused for years by others. We become protective over what we've worked for and that we know we need to preserve for our families. A "liberal" perspective on many issues can still be a part of one's core. I like to think that we become hybrids as we age. We all can't live in a commune and share everything freely. My generation saw a lot of that and watched it unravel. Life is work.

I Say Oui said...

I think a lot of us are trying to figure this out-- how to make a difference and not feel helpless while balancing our daily personal responsibilities.