“We are, by nature, a generous people. Just about every American I know who has traveled abroad and taken the time to have genuine conversations with citizens of other countries has encountered the question, as I have, “Why isn’t your country as nice as you are?” I wish I knew. Maybe we’re distracted by our attachment to convenience; maybe we believe the ads that tell us that material things are the key to happiness; or maybe we’re too frightened to question those who routinely define our national interest for us in terms of corporate profits. Then, too, millions of Americans are so strapped by the task of keeping their kids fed and a roof over their heads that it’s impossible for them to consider much of anything beyond that. But ultimately the answer must be that as a nation, we just haven’t yet demanded generosity of ourselves.
But we could, and we know it. Our country possesses the resources to bring solar technology, energy independence, and sustainable living to our planet. Even in the simple realm of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations estimates that $13 billion above currents levels of aid would provide everyone in the world (including the hungry within our own borders) with basic health and nutrition. Collectively, Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a year on pet food [my emphasis].
We could do much more than just feed the family of mankind as well as our cats and dogs; we could assist that family in acquiring the basic skills and tools it needs to feed itself, while maintaining the natural resources on which all life depends. Real generosity involves not only making a gift but also giving up something, and on both scores we’re well situated to be the most generous nation on earth [my emphasis].
We like to say we already are, and it’s true that American people give of their own minute proportion of the country’s wealth to help victims of disasters far and wide. Our children collect pennies to buy rain forests one cubic inch at a time, but this is a widow’s mite, not a national tithe. Our government’s spending on foreign aid has plummeted over the last twenty years to levels that are–to put it bluntly–the stingiest among all developed nations’. In the year 2000, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States allocated just .1 percent of its gross national product to foreign aid–or about one dime for every hundred dollars in its treasury–whereas Canada, Japan, Austria, Australia, and Germany each contributed two to three times that much. Other countries gave even more, some as much as ten times the amount we do; they view this as a contribution to the world’s stability and their own peace [my emphasis]. But our country takes a different approach to generosity: Our tradition is to forgive debt in exchange for a strategic military base, an indentured economy, or mineral rights. We offer the hungry our magic seeds, genetically altered so the recipients must also buy our pesticides, while their sturdy native seed banks die out. At Fat Brother’s house the domestic help might now and then slip out the back door with a plate of food for a neighbor, but for the record the household gives virtually nothing away. Even now, in what may be the most critical moment of our history, I fear that we seem to be telling the world we are not merciful so much as we are mighty.
In our darkest hours we may find comfort in the age-old slogan from the resistance movement, declaring that we shall not be moved. But we need to finish that sentence. Moved from where? Are we anchoring to the best of what we’ve believed in, throughout our history, or merely to an angry new mode of self-preservation? The American moral high ground can’t possibly be an isolated mountaintop from which we refuse to learn anything at all to protect ourselves from monstrous losses. it is critical to distinguish here between innocence and naïveté: The innocent do not deserve to be violated, but only the naive refuse to think about the origins of violence. A nation that seems to believe so powerfully in retaliation cannot flatly refuse to look at the world in terms of cause and effect. The rage and fury of this world have not notably lashed out at Canada (the nation that takes best care of its citizens), or Finland (the most literate), or Brazil or Costa Rica (among the most biodiverse). Neither have they tried to strike down our redwood forests or our fields of waving grain. Striving to cut us most deeply, they felled the towers that seemed to claim we buy and sell the world.
We don’t own the world, as it turns out. Flight attendants and bankers, mothers and sons were ripped from us as proof, and thousands of families must now spend whole lifetimes reassembling themselves after shattering loss. The rest of us have lowered our flags in grief on their behalf. I believe we could do the same for the 35,600 of the world’s children who also died on September 11 from conditions of starvation, and extend our hearts to the fathers and mothers who lost them.
This seems a reasonable time to search our souls for some corner where humility resides. Our nation behaves in some ways that bring joy to the world, and in others that make people angry. Not all of those people are heartless enough to kill us for it, or fanatical enough to die in the effort, but some inevitably will be–more and more, as desperation spreads. Wars of endless retaliation kill not only people but also the systems that grow food, deliver clean water, and heal the sick; they destroy beauty, they extinguish species, they increase desperation [my emphasis].
I wish our national anthem were not the one about the bombs bursting in air, but the one about purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. It’s easier to sing and closer to the heart of what we really have to sing about. A land as broad and green as ours demands of us thanksgiving and a certain breadth of spirit. It invites us to invest our hearts most deeply in invulnerable majesties that can never be brought down in a stroke of anger. If we can agree on anything in difficult times, it must be that we have the resources to behave more generously than we do, and that we are brave enough to rise from the ashes of loss as better citizens of the world than we have ever been.
We’ve inherited the grace of the Grand Canyon, the mystery of the Everglades, the fertility of an Iowa plain–we could crown this good with brotherhood. What a vast inheritance for our children that would be, if we were to become a nation humble before our rich birthright, whose graciousness makes us beloved” (p. 27-30).
From: Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver – published 2002 – and perhaps even more true today.
If we can feed and take care of our pets well, and we do, we could also be making sure the refugees and hungry of the world get sustenance, shelter, and education. We must all do what we can.
Banner: made by S. Klein
Lovebird photo: Jenis
“Ever’thing there is but lovin’ leaves a rust on yo’ soul,” Langston Hughes.
James Mercer Langston Hughes, (1902-1967) an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri, was one of the earliest innovators of jazz poetry.
P.S. The banner photo is of a dragon fruit bloom – planted at our house by Johnny about three years ago. Love surrounds us in the fruit and beauty of nature wherever we are.
Yesterday in my search through a cupboard for a tea bag, I came across two lovely sayings – taped to chai tea bags! I’m sure the tea bags – and sayings – were from delightful Servas guests we had recently. You are sure to like these messages too:
“The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.” 🙂
“Laughter . . . is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” 🙂
Words of wisdom from Servas guests Doris & Robin of Vancouver & Munich.
These words from Buddha seem wise – and useful – for us to remember today.
“Thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit.
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings . . .
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think so we become.”
Buddha – From the Dhammapada
“The light falls only on the stranger,” an ancient Arabic proverb declares. This saying can mean that individuals are often not celebrated in their own countries – nor in their own families. While familiarity may not mean contempt, it certainly lends itself to disregard. However, one of the joys of traveling allows us to be the stranger – and to see others as strangers.
During these last two months, Barry and I drove from St. Louis, Missouri to as far south as Key West, Florida and as far north as Eau Claire, Wisconsin – visiting family, friends, meeting new people, and having new experiences. We felt the special attention showered upon wanderers. And we were eager to see others.
The proverb points to another way travelers benefit in their wandering. “The light falls only on the stranger” can also mean that the one who sees most clearly – what is special – is often by those who are seeing something for the first time.
It’s a challenge for us all – those at home and those on the road – to see the light that is in each person and the light that surrounds us everywhere. What can you see when you look carefully?
“Compassion isn’t weakness. Compassion is strength,” says John Lewis, M.B.A. CEO and founder of Bad Ass Vegan
From: Thrive Vegan Magazine: Plant-Based Culture, Food, Lifestyle, Athletes, Health, Issue 7, p. 46-47.
During a podcast with Rich Roll, John Lewis also said,
“No one is responsible for your well being . . . take control of your own health,” says John Lewis.
Rich Roll notes,
“John Lewis wasn’t always the exemplary model of health and advocacy he is today. Tipping the scales at 315 pounds by his freshman year in high school, things could have easily gone sideways for this young man growing up in Ferguson, Missouri.
But instead of drugs and gangs, he turned to sports, finding solace and refuge in basketball and football. Honing his skills in both high school and college helped him ditch his fat kid image and triggered his life-long love for healthy living.
Nonetheless, John began experiencing some serious, negative health issues despite maintaining an athletic nature post-college. He sought medical advice and was informed that excessive animal protein consumption just might be the culprit. That advice, combined with his mother’s colon cancer diagnosis, catalyzed an experiment with vegetarianism. Little did he know, that experiment would change his life.
In short shrift, ditching meat resolved his health issues. More importantly, the lifestyle aligned with his values. So it wasn’t long before John jettisoned all animal products from his plate and went entirely vegan.
Needless to say, this was an unlikely move for a football loving gym rat. His friends were not amused.
But John never felt better. The lights went on, opening him to an entirely new way of living and being that brought his life path into focus.”
Be compassionate. Be healthy. Aloha, Renée
“Humanity as a species and our planet can not and will not survive without love, kindness, and compassion,”
- says Jona Weinhoffe, Metalcore Vegan Rocker in Thrive: Plant-based: Culture. Food. Lifestyle. Issue #7, p. 24
Let’s radiate love, kindness, and compassion to all sentient beings. Aloha, Renée
“When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.”
Attributed to “An Old Jew of Glaicia” in the epigraph of The Captive Mind: An urgent message to the West on the Communist mentality and the tragic moral and intellectual condition of the men and women who live under Stalinism by Czeslaw Milosz.
Poet, novelist, essayist, translator, and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, Milosz was born in Šeteniai (Polish: Szetejnie), present-day Lithuania, on June 30, 1911 and died on August 14, 2004 in Kraków.
Milosz image & biography information from http://culture.pl/en/artist/czeslaw-milosz
How right are you? How right are those you follow?
“Memory collapses time, novelty unfolds it.
You can exercise daily and eat healthy, and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches our psychological time, and lengthens our perceptions of our lives” (77).
from Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
In a summary of the book, Amazon notes, “On average, people squander forty days annually compensating for things they’ve forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of memory training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.”
So do something beyond your routine: read a book – maybe this one, hike a new path, talk to someone outside your circle . . . Make today – and tomorrow – memorable.
P.S. Thanks for recommending this book, Esther.
“Tip #142: There are billions of aluminum cans in use today, and it’s important that we recycle every single one. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.”
Thanks to Bob & H – From: PositivelyGreenCards.com
Let’s get all those aluminum cans in the recycle bins. Aloha, Renée