When asked to invite a friend to a Thanksgiving Dinner a very good friend of mine declined categorically saying: “Thanksgiving is a family affair.”
It makes me wonder why do we still hold on to such a narrow concept of a human family? If a nation is made up of insular families and the world is made up of insular nations how can we have unity and peace?
Unity and Peace is something every individual claims to work for and yet no one seems to address the question: Can unity and peace be achieved without compassion? Should compassion be restricted to only family and friends?
The newspapers in India reported on December 2 that an estimated 13 billion rupees worth of vegetables and fruit is dumped every year because India lacks adequate storage cold storage and transport facilities. The United States also is estimated to be tossing two billion pounds of food into the garbage every year. Yet half the population of India and almost half the population of the world live and die of hunger. Can we ignore this and live with our conscience?
The rich will spend billions of dollars worldwide during this festive season to give each other and their families gifts that no one really needs. The rich will get richer and the poor will continue to suffer and die of starvation. Is this what humanity should be about?
Our materialistic life style has made us greedy, self-centered and selfish; traits that cannot be considered civilized. When Gandhi said: We must become the change we wish to see in the world, what he meant was the expansion of our narrow concepts of a human family, to feel the anguish and pain of others who are less fortunate and in however small measure do something to bring joy and happiness to those who are less fortunate in a constructive way.
Charity, like many things in modern society, takes two forms. One that is motivated out of pity and the other that is motivated by compassion. Pity leads to oppression whilst compassion leads to freedom. When we make people dependent on charity for their survival we are oppressing them but when we make people stand on their feet and rediscover their self-respect and self-confidence it leads to constructive action.
I believe that if we drift with the prevailing wind we will destroy humanity and the world but if we change our attitudes and concepts there is still hope of saving civilization and making it more meaningful.