culture

to live is to give.

22 Nov 2011

i once met a single mom who had 4 or 5 kids (i don’t remember exactly). the oldest was in one of the special education classes i taught in a little town in nc. i needed parent signatures on some legal papers, but the mother would never come to the school to sign it. so, i decided to go to her home to get the papers signed. i had no idea what i would witness. i drove into the neighborhood = the ghetto = the projects, and wondered if i would be safe. i knew that kids ran around with guns, and drugs were being used everywhere. i parked my car, went up to the porch of a dilapidated house where the white paint was peeling off, and knocked on the screen door. no one came. i saw a woman sitting on a couch inside, so i opened the door and let myself in, telling her who i was and what i had come for. she didn’t really respond. it didn’t take me a long time to realize that she was high. she never got up off the sofa, but she did mumble some words to me. kids ran around the house in their underware. there was a kerosene heater in the middle of the room, which was on, and clothes had been thrown on top of it. i was thinking, “oh my god. fire hazard. big time. this place is gonna go up in flames.” i somehow got her to sign the papers, and left pretty quickly. she couldn’t communicate very well, and i was feeling really unsafe & scared. besides, what more could i do?

after that home visit, i did several more with other parents (mostly single moms). i began to understand the importance of knowing the backgrounds of the students i taught. but, i felt helpless. i saw their situations, i saw their pain & their struggles, and i became a changed person. i was no longer scared of the poor. i had looked them in the face, been to their homes, talked with them about their lives. poverty, addiction, abuse now had faces. they weren’t just societal issues that i studied or heard about. they were people, mostly women. fighting for their lives. and i constantly thought about them. i had everything. they seemed to have nothing. and yet, as i gave to them (time, education, an ear to listen), i realized that they gave me even more.

i know that there are many who think that occupy wall st. (and the other occupiers around the world) is a bunch of bull. i have heard people responding negatively with comments like, “occupy a job!” or denying that they are a part of the 99%, or simple disbelief that anything could or should  be different with the capitalistic, egocentric, give-me-what’s-mine society that is this world. but, i believe differently.

i encourage everyone to have their own opinions, and i respect them all, even if i disagree. but, i also encourage all people, regardless of their opinions, to be open enough to at least listen to one another. minds may not be changed, you & i may still not agree, but at least we have had the courtesy to listen to each other. truly listen. that is respect. that is tolerance & acceptance. that is unconditional love. but, that is what we humans have a hard time doing. we believe what we believe, and that’s it. we have the idea that the perfect world would mean that everyone would hold the same opinions that we hold, for we believe that we know best. but, if life really existed like that, we would never learn anything. we would never grow, or have new experiences. i digress…

i have posted a youtube video below because i watched it and i was touched. behind all the occupy wall st. stuff, there lies a fundamental message that many want to share. and that is, we are a community. we all live together on this planet we call home. there is meaning to life, and that meaning is to love & to give. life is to be lived from the inside out. we are here to share our love, give of our ourselves (for we all have something unique to give), and to build a better world together. but, that’s not how things have been going. there has been a focus on getting, hoarding, acquiring. we have been living from the outside in. consuming everything for ourselves. thinking, “what will i get out of this?”, “how will this benefit me?”. always searching for ways to make more money, buy more things, secure more power, earn more respect, move up without even acknowledging the person beside us who is drowning. it’s been all about me. me. me. and we’ve forgotten about each other. or we’ve said to one another through our words or actions, “i’m too busy trying to make my way. i’m working hard. i cannot help you. you are responsible for making your own way. if you work hard, you’ll make it. good luck.”

never mind that the persons we say this to have no home to live in, or have been searching for a job for over a year, or struggle with alcohol or drugs, or have been sold into slavery (yes. slavery exists today.), or have been cast out by their families. never mind that the persons we say this to were born into poverty and their neighborhood school has no money, so their education is not quite up to par with the private school down the street that is turning out doctors & lawyers (who also struggle to find jobs, mind you). never mind that the persons that we say this to have no self-esteem, no self-confidence, and no one to teach them that they matter. they don’t have time to dream of “how to make it”. they are just trying to survive. it shouldn’t be like this. but, in reality, it is. these are not lazy people, who just don’t want to do their part. these are people who have dreams, but feel no hope. they feel stuck in a cycle. and we feel that they should get themselves unstuck. if they work hard enough, they can do it. we don’t have time, patience, or the desire to help. we’re too busy with our own race to the top.  besides, helping someone along the way to the top, means that we might have to give up something that we have earned for ourselves. we believe that we lose something, if we give you something.

sadly, we think that more for you is less for me. but, in truth, more for you is more for me.

the truth is, love creates love. don’t we all know that? when we love someone, we receive love in return.

so, why can’t we help each other? why can’t we create something together? why can’t we give instead of get? what are we afraid of? we have lost what is really important. generosity. community. love. a meaningful life. it’s time to realize that we need each other, that life is better when it is shared together. it’s time to recognize our mistakes, reassess our values & priorities, look at what we have, and then begin to love & share ourselves again. to live is to give. it seems crazy. utopian. idealistic. impossible, even. but, each of us is important. each of us have something to give. each of us matter. each of us exists for a reason. and it’s time to discover what we have within ourselves that is our own special thing, and then share that thing with the world. it’s time to dream a little, to listen to our souls a little, and to live from those dreams which come from deep within.

i have worked with too many people who are searching for a way out. i have seen the struggles that our selfishness (and i include myself in this) has brought to others. if you’ve never met someone who is homeless, addicted, living in poverty, abused, or stuck in a cycle, then i encourage you to visit a homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen, or a hospital, or talk to someone on the street. just do it. when these people become human beings with stories behind their situations, your perspective changes. and it becomes impossible to simply walk past them and ignore them ever again. behind each face is a dreamer, a lover, a human being… worthy of a beautiful, free, amazing life. isn’t it time that we help each other create those lives? together, in our own little places in the world, we can.

i believe in “a more beautiful world. a world that our hearts tell us is possible. a sacred world. a world that works for everybody. a world that is healing. a world of peace.”

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