I’m amazed by people who can pour their heart and soul into causes that are so far removed from their own reality: genocide in Darfur, a hurricane in New Orleans, tsunami relief in Indonesia, aid for victims of the cyclone in Burma (and, I might add, of the country’s somewhat irrational leadership) … the list of disasters goes on, all with an astounding following of devoted do-gooders.
Today’s issue of the New York Times headlines what I suspect will be the next target of our attention — an earthquake in Sichuan, China.
A friend of mine inspired this post — Out of nowhere, she began to rant the other day in an unexpectedly emphatic way about the resistance of the Burmese government to outside intervention. “I don’t understand!” she exploded. “How could they not want our help?”
Tired from a long day of walking and talking, I kept silent and let her vent. But I wondered: what exactly do we have to do with Burma anyway? How do people conjure the energy to tirelessly help people in a country they probably couldn’t find on a map?
Not to say that I am against the idea of helping people — as a rule, I think doing for others is much more rewarding than doing for self — but it sometimes seems that newspaper headlines dictate where we devote our time and energy, as opposed to our own innate desire to do good. I’d be willing to bet that, driven by your inner girl scout, you could simply walk your neighborhood and do a number of good deeds: picking up litter, shooting hoops with a child, helping a homebound neighbor do some grocery shopping, etc etc.
But somehow, these smaller, tangible deeds often tend to go undone.
Wayne Coyne, lead singer of the Flaming Lips (love him!) makes a similar point in an interview I heard a while back:
“So many times, young people are caught up in the abstract quality of what you can do to the world. People will always pick some group of starving, unfortunate people in the world… to say ‘I’m gonna send them some money, and I hope that they’re doing good,’ and they don’t realize that they’ve never actually helped anybody in their community. There’s probably someone 50 feet away from you… if you really tried, you could go and find them and actually help them. You wouldn’t even have to give them money, you could probably do something for them, right then and there, and know, ‘that person and me have a connection, and I helped them.'”
Titling my blog with ‘love more’ is a simple way of conveying my interest in what I think is one of the most effective ways of doing good — small, loving acts that directly connect you to another human being. I’d much rather hold a door for someone or write a nice card to someone having a bad day than put five dollars in an envelope and mail it away to another time zone, never to hear from them again. But, right or wrong, that’s just me.
I do certainly still admire those who can devote themselves so fully to causes such as these; If anybody reads and can comment from a different perspective, I’d love some insight!