The world could be a better place, but we just don’t care. Or don’t care ENOUGH. We act like the homeless don’t exist. We put doing for selves as priority one without a second thought. Helping isn’t something that’s VALUED by the society around us.
Who are we in the world? What is our purpose here on Earth? We constantly search for the meaning of our lives — many of us dying before we figure it out.
But why is this? Why can’t we seem to fill that meaningless void? Why don’t we help even when we see people in dire need?
1: WE FEAR THE CONSEQUENCES
For rational reasons or not, we now fear what the outcome of our actions might be. If we let a stranger into our homes and they rob us (or worse), we place the blame on ourselves for putting ourselves in that situation in the first place. Or if we do a favour for someone else and they “conveniently forget” that you did it when you need something from them in return, we blame ourselves for being so stupid as to believe they were a good person. No, it’s because of all the horror stories, because of what we see in the media, because we’ve strayed so far from a united village mentality that…
2: WE INHERENTLY DISTRUST EVERYBODY
With each passing year, children are raid to trust others less and less — unfortunately, it’s for good reason! It can be difficult to attribute the ills and evils of the world to one particular reason, but they’re there. With an ever-increasing population, we’ve seen an increase in crime, violence and deception — which correlates with an increase in (justifiable) paranoia. But there’s also the fact that we don’t trust others because we don’t really give ourselves the chance to get to KNOW others. Sure, just stopping a random stranger on the street might not be the answer, but how well do you know your coworkers? Classmates? The people you ride the train with every day? Distant cousins?
There’s a plethora of people out there on the planet — but someone has to make the first move to establish the bonds that make life worth living.
3: WE’RE TOO FOCUSED ON OURSELVES
As a society, we’re very self-centred. Media and those around us praise those who’re rich, beautiful and have done well for themselves rather than those who are philanthropists or spend their time volunteering. Our values centre around amassing as much wealth as we can while alive rather than empowering others to do JUST as well in life as we do — in fact, we WORRY about others getting farther ahead than we do in life, because of how it might make us feel and perhaps because of how it will affect our OWN opportunities to advance.
But we need to look outside of ourselves, our personal needs and desires — while these are important, it doesn’t make what’s going on in the rest of the world LESS important. Even though I tithe 10% of my earnings to my church, our leader of child and youth services once made a good point: that it isn’t enough to just throw money at problems — we have plenty of other resources available to us that we can share with others! Whether it’s time, effort, possessions or love, there’re many things that others need from us to improve their lives.
4: WE DON’T KNOW HOW TO HELP
The argument is often made that there are so many people in need across the world that we simply don’t know where to start! But the solution is simpler than you think — it isn’t so much about the massive laundry list of things the world needs, more about what WE can provide to the world.
I’d start with the four resources I mentioned near the end of that last point — time, effort, possessions and love. Here’re some ideas of how you can give these to the world around you:
- volunteer for an organization in need of assistance
- lend an ear to a friend or stranger in need
- take the time to go out of your way to do something you normally wouldn’t, such as someone else’s chores
EFFORT (very much linked to TIME)
- go above and beyond in solving a problem
- give extra assistance in helping someone else in need, even if it isn’t your responsibility to do so
- don’t give up so easily when you’re trying to do something to help — sometimes it’ll take a long time to see results from your actions, but you’ll get there with enough TIME and EFFORT
- the most obvious method is to donate anything you don’t need to someone who does — clothing, books, money, food — really, the list is endless for the things that people can use (some places that’ll take your stuff AND usually even PICK IT UP: The Furniture Bank, The Kidney Foundation, The Canadian Diabetes Association)!
- I find it easier to donate in bulk than to try and individually give things away
- While others may look at how much they’d originally spent on something and try to recoup as much of the cost as possible, I see it as more of a lesson — you’re giving the item away because you don’t need it. And as you don’t need it, you likely shouldn’t have bought it. Purchase more wisely in the future! Thus, if you can afford it, donating shouldn’t be seen as missing out on money you COULD make, but rather a reminder of the money you SHOULDN’T have SPENT
Love is one of the things we find the hardest to give away because we get hurt so easily, yet one of the most important things to get in order for us to prosper and feel included in the world. Some ideas:
- If you want children and can’t have any, consider adoption — there are various children worldwide who would benefit from some love and care
- We’re all linked together in the world; whenever there’s a tragedy afoot (see Horn of Africa for a recent example), we should feel COMPELLED to help rather than APATHETIC because it didn’t happen to us personally
- We all need love in different doses, and we can often forget that — remember this about those closest to you, and if we all go the extra bit here and there to make sure we do this consistently, the world will feel the effects!
5: BAD PAST EXPERIENCES
Finally, another key reason why we often don’t wish to help others isn’t so much about the fears we have looking forward as to what MIGHT happen, but the unsettled feelings from things in the past that already HAVE happened.
We’ve all been burned in the past — some more often or more harshly than others. It reminds me of a quote from an O’Jays song:
“(What they doin’?) They’re smilin’ in your face! All the time they wanna take your place — the back stabbers.” — The O’Jays, “Back Stabbers”
I don’t know why we do it — why though we’re all fairly similar in genetic makeup and need to rely on one another to ensure the survival of our species, we still choose to stab each other in the backs. Backstabbing can be caused by a number of things; usually emotions — envy, rage, jealousy, or perhaps other intangibles like the desire to advance in a company or the need to belong.
But there’s always another way.
The future is not the past. The past can INFLUENCE the future, but they remain two VERY SEPARATE things. So make sure not to get them confused and to put a brighter future together for all of us by making it that much more caring.
AND IN CONCLUSION:
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making the world a better place. We’ll truly know that we’re getting there when we don’t have to remind ourselves to think about these things; when they’re simply learned behaviours that call us to action whenever needed. And there are those out there who want to effect this change, such as the people behind peopleforgood.ca, who want to inspire a cultural shift behind helping others as a natural reaction. (A site to actively log the deeds we do may not be the RIGHT medium, but it’s a step in the right direction!)
So the next time you come across a homeless person in the street? The next time you see a child crying uncontrollably in the crowd? Or simply the next time someone you know is in crisis mode and they don’t know what to do — THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. We’re all full of skills, abilities, resources and more that the world could benefit from — the first step is simply being willing to be generous.
–Casey E. Palmer