Self-knowledge is a tricky thing.
It’s not as common as one might hope, based on people’s actions it’s clear that not everyone knows who or what they are. Actions contradict words. Mistakes reveal flaws.
I can recognize in my earlier in years gone by the things that madden me most about the behavior of Republicans. That is why I am so upset. I know that there have been times in my life when I was as unkind, as uncaring, as rude (though I hope never as untruthful), as the worst of them. The difference is that people have taught me to be different.
No — I didn’t take classes.
When I say “people taught me to be different” I mean that living with people, rubbing shoulders with them, being aware of their weaknesses, their failures, the hopes and the dashed aspirations have made me aware of my own privilege, of the happenstance in life, and of the fact that we all have the opportunity each and every day to turn over a new leaf.
I can only think that those who want to cut back on the services government provides don’t spend much time rubbing elbows with people in need. If they do and they are un moved by the real tragedies of life I feel truly sorry for them. It’s a problem that the only way to help the extremely poor of the world is to put a larger burden on those who have wealth; and I’ve heard all the arguments that if you tax the wealthy too much you remove the incentive for them to achieve great wealth but that has always struck me as a straw man argument. I have yet to see a person of wealth who has decided to stop working because the tax burden is too high. There are many who resort to devious means to shelter their money so that it becomes inaccessible to the Tax Man; but those who are moved by money are not deterred from seeking just because there are taxes to be paid. The bigger problem though is that it’s possible to accumulate so much wealth in our Capitalist society that one could never spend it all; one’s family could never spend it all — it is money that is doing no one any good rotting away in vaults while millions starve, while we pollute the planet, while children grow into adulthood ignorant and disease ridden. Capitalism may have been the engine that drove the wealth that we have but there has to be balance in this world; when the world is out of balance Momma Nature has a way of returning balance — in the earth and in societies. There have been reasons that entire cultures have rotted and fallen away into disrepair and unless we find ways to even out the scales of balance the same will happen to this nation.
The thing about kindness is that it’s not about self. Kindness is about others. I know that my generation has been called the ME generation. Perhaps that’s why we’ve gotten into the mess. Perhaps my generation has been too concerned about itself. I’m not enough of a MACRO thinker to know. What I do know is that I feel very different here in S. Texas than I did in Wisconsin and the Northern part of Illinois where we spent a lot of time. Our short visit to Houston reminded me too much of the Midwest. There were too many huge homes; too many gated communities; too many posh cars and restaurants and such. If I borrow again from that quotation I referred to recently the degree of our excesses are evidence of just how discontent we are with the world we have created. We joke about it. We laugh at our neighbor keeping up with the Jones’ — but we rarely recognize it when we do it too. When we do, it’s a reasonable response to …. something. If there is one thing that humans do well, it is self-justification — making excuses to do what we want to do.
The thing is kindness doesn’t happen when we’re thinking about ourselves. We have to be thinking about someone else to even notice that there might be something they need — some way in which we can be kind. Folks here all have there ways. Some volunteer in the kitchen, others volunteer on the property. Some folks walk dogs for those who can’t walk their own. Each has recognized that someone near them needs something. I applaud that. That is great. The helping hands don’t have to be big. Someone took down the engraved street names and put a new coat of paint in the engraved names so that they could be read more easily. Simple. Easy. Everyone benefits and what was the cost? A little elbow grease, a couple sheets of sandpaper, and a tiny can of paint. It’s easy to find people being kind around here. And each one makes me want to be a better person.