Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Doing good far away...

I have to collect my thoughts in order to write about people who go to great lengths to "do good."

So many times I read in our newspaper or see a feature on television about someone from the area who has gone to India, or Bangladesh, or Latin America, and even Selma, Alabama in order to do works of charity: to hold orphan children, to succor the ill in Africa, to bring a few days of order to a primitive hospital, and to, in general, get in touch with the seamier side of human existence, while at the same time some of these people show a certain amount of scorn and distain for those around them in the normal daily routine of life in Puddletown, USA. I am often amazed because the same spirit of generous and spiritual giving could have been accomplished right in town. I often hear that such experiences give a "groundedness" even a "spirituality dimension" to those to whom the luxury of travel to a faraway place can give a feeling of being in some way superior to those who go about their daily routines and may give in other ways as best they can but without the publicity. I know many people who have never had a newspaper spread nor have they gotten public notice for what they do every day to bring some comfort into the lives of others.

I believe that doing good faraway is another incarnation of the "White Man's Burden" sort of thing the Europeans were so chastised for in another era. Is holding and comforting a baby in India somehow better than holding and comforting a baby in the local clinic while his Mom is being seen by the nurse? Is it better than holding and comforting a child whose family has to depend on the local food shelf because of the unemployment of the family - or to help out with time talent or treasure at the local shelter, food shelf or school? Is it better to travel to another continent to do a few days or a week of comforting people whom you are going to leave in the lurch again? In order to change something, time has to be invested. Better to invest it locally and hope the rest of the world will do it to. We won't be able to make a difference unless we do it one person at a time where we are. As the old hymn says, "Brighten the corner where you are..."

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