One can never pay in gratitude; one can pay “in kind” somewhere else in life. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This quote may seem out of place to some people. Their lives have not been graced by good deeds or favours done for them by others and they have little time or interest in doing something for another person that does not benefit themselves.
In past generations people had to support and do favours for their friends and neighbours because they knew the time would come when they would need help from others when they couldn’t make it on their own.
A farmer whose crop was destroyed by hail would receive seed donations from neighbours whose crops had been bypassed. When a new barn had to go up, the rural community had a “barn raising” where the whole building usually went up in a day.
When a family had a death, especially of the wife/mother, the rest of the community would pitch in with meal donations for the next while until the family could function again on its own. Shelter was always available for anyone who needed it.
In suburban areas today neighbours feel successful if they manage to reach an agreement over a questionable move that could affect both without going to court. In cities many apartment neighbours don’t even know each other. And they won’t meet because, by convention, no one speak to others in an elevator.
When someone does something nice for another, the good deed doer might not even receive a “Thank you.” Some don’t want favours done for them because they believe it creates an obligation for them to return the favour.
What will happen when a real community tragedy strikes this sort of place? For example, a country-wide food shortage resulting from crop failure due to climate change. No country can afford to buy enough food from other countries to feed its people for long.
In New Orleans, people starved and died from lack of fresh water, food and medications because help didn’t reach them for many days after the hurricane struck. Imagine the shock and confusion if two or more large cities suffered such tragedies at the same time.
It’s a great tribute to the people of New Orleans who survived but were not properly rescued for days that they didn’t fight each other for food or riot and loot to steal supplies from boarded up stores. History teaches us that people have rioted and looted under far less stressful circumstances than impending death from disease or starvation.
When people help each other today we call it charity. However, the word charity either must be redefined or a new word must be found for a new kind of helping that is spreading around the world.
We see people jump to the aid of the citizens of Afghanistan so they can recover from the destruction of their war. Or of Iranians after an earthquack that flattened a small city. Or of Indonesians, Sri Lankanas and Indians when a tsunami killed a quarter of a million people.
Today it matters to some people that a few in their own community cannot read and write, so they create literacy courses. It matters that some people suffer from emotional trauma because they can’t cope with the downturns in their lives, so turn to drugs or even suicide. They create helplines and subsidize psychological services and retraining.
It matters when some die needlessly because an industry has polluted a water supply or tobacco companies have inserted poisonous substances into tobacco products or an auto manufacturer has put a defective and potentially dangerous car on the road.
It’s not the insult that matters now but the fact that their fellow citizens of the world are into trouble they can’t manage.
The change can be seen all over the world, often in situations that don’t warrant a place in the news. A culture of helping others, of an obligation to help our fellow humans who are in trouble, is growing.
As Anne Lindbergh said, we can’t repay someone who has done us that kind of favour. We can, however, pay it forward. We can do a good deed for someone else who needs one desperately. We can help those who want it. We can stop making it seem shameful to need help from others.
We can even do favours for those who need it even if we haven’t received any ourselves. As many are learning, it’s the right thing to do.
Someone has just done you a favour of passing along some good news. Maybe it’s not much to you. But you could pass along some good news about the future we all hope to see to someone else.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring good news to a needy world.
Find more good news–lots of it– at http://billallin.com