Be who you are, love – and live – the way you are. Don’t analyze too much.
The other day, after we stepped out of a grocery store on a busy street, a man approached us. He must have been in his 60s. He asked us for some money saying he had not eaten. I did want to give him some money – not that we have any of our own, earned, money – maybe twenty rupees, but I am very wary of doing charity on crowded streets. When you pause to pull out your wallet, a whole bunch of people seeking alms accost you. And then you create a spectacle – whether you donate to each of them or you don’t. Besides, the syndicate that runs this alms-collection operation in Indian cities is controlled by the mafia. So, over time, Vaani and I have set up a simple process. Whenever we want to serve, we cook a meal at home and go round a few blocks feeding random, hungry, strangers in adjacent neighborhoods. And whenever we want to support a cause, we do it online – we support http://www.rasaindia.org or http://www.akshayatrust.org or we choose from a variety of meaningful programs on http://www.truegiftsindia.org.
Interestingly, the same day that the incident I have narrated above happened, a friend, who follows my Blog, pinged me from New York. He asked: “What is that thing that holds us back from doing good…many times I see a helpless person or animal on the street…I can empathize with that person, I feel sad, but I hardly step out and help…we read about this everyday…people see an injured person on the road and walk away…or they see a hungry, homeless, person, on a few stop to help…is it a “why should I care?” feeling or is it something to do with “not wanting to dirty our hands”?”
I am not sure such analysis of human intention is helpful. I fundamentally believe that all of us are do-gooders. We are all compassionate. And all of us want to help. But each one of us has a way to express this compassionate side to us. There are people who are extremely comfortable with taking complete ownership of social causes and driving them – at significant cost to themselves financially and time-wise. There are people who just like to donate to a charity they support. There are others who believe in volunteering and offering their sweat and time to institutions or networks that are leading social change. And then there are those who do whatever they do, sometimes doing all of what I have outlined, alternating between models, mediums and channels, quietly. There are also folks who have taken to serving others, who believe it’s their raison d’etre to work towards uplifting Life and humanity. And, of course, there are some people who don’t wish to get involved in doing anything for others. Surely, it takes all kinds of people to make this world. And I don’t think we must label anyone as good or bad depending on whether they have an expressive, visible, do-good gene in them or not. I don’t advise judging anyone on whether they stopped by to help someone on the street or not. I don’t even want to evaluate my compassion in respect of others – there have been many occasions when I have wanted to do something for someone, but I simply can’t because we ourselves are going through a tough time! So, I believe we must allow each one of us to be human in our own unique ways.
Of course, we can make this world a much better place if each of us did just a wee bit more than what we are doing presently for fellow humans, for other Life around us and for the planet. But let our need and ability to serve, to contribute, come from within. Let us not compare, let us not rate our compassion or that of others. Just being who we are, the way we are, and being at peace ourselves, will make us happier people. And the happier we are, the happier our world will be!