Disclaimer: I’m about to get “preachy.” If that doesn’t sit well with you please use your freedom as a citizen of the web and entertain yourself elsewhere. I might suggest taking some fun quizzes (maybe even football-related ones!) over at Sporcle– I will not hold it against you.
For some time now- I’m at a loss as to put a number on it- I have been unable to avoid the fact that a certain callousness has crept into my world. Maybe it has always been there and I just haven’t noticed it, but I don’t think so. I see it in everything from the trolls who populate the comments sections of every news story on the web, to the way that customers treat people who work in retail, to the way that drivers treat each other on our roads, and in hundreds of other ways. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of some of these things and probably not even been aware of it. Nobody seems to care about anyone else anymore and that bodes ill for all of us.
Look, I get it. A certain amount of “being American” has been about being ambitious, about being independent, about being iconoclastic, and that has been a large part of what has made this country what it is today. Yes, there has always been some collateral damage- be it to the traditions we have cherished, to the environment that has sustained us, and to those of us cast by the wayside as progress came barreling through. On balance, however, more good than bad has come of our striving towards the future, towards success- the rising waters have always lifted most boats. But this was always only half of the story…
The other half- the half that kept us balanced- was looking out for the other guy, rooting for the underdog, hoping that the rebel could make the establishment see the justice of his cause. There’s no doubt that we’ve often lagged behind when it came to those who were too different from “us,” be they differently-churched, differently-complected, or just…different. Overtime, however, we’ve generally come to our senses. Not through epiphany, or debate, or compulsion, but through that constant, gnawing feeling that “it could be us,” that in many cases, it had been us. That visceral compass that has always known right from wrong regardless of what our heads might tell us has always, eventually, been heeded. We’ve reached our individual and collective hand back and pulled forward those who may have fallen a step or two behind.
E pluribus unum seems to have been replaced by “every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost” as our national motto and shame on each and every one of us for allowing this to happen, whether it be through neglect or, worse yet, encouragement. I probably can’t do much to change that as an individual, but one thing I can do is to not go along with it.
Charity, in its most broad and historic sense, means “unlimited loving-kindness toward all others.” I say this to differentiate it from the meaning it carries in 21st century America- “I may help you, but not until I’ve thoroughly judged you, gotten you to admit that your current situation is entirely of your own making, and furthermore, to admit that it was most likely due to your moral inferiority.” Enough of this Rand-ian “I’ve got mine and that’s all that matters” nonsense, I wasn’t raised that way.
Until this point in my life I have kept the manifestations of my feelings of charity to myself- this is– for better or worse, the way I was raised. I was taught to help those around me and not to make a fuss about it. I was taught that you never “loan” money, you “give” money. I was taught that it’s nothing short of cruel to expect somebody to pull themselves up by their boot straps when they stand before you with bare feet. I was taught that it is better for me to make do with a little less than for somebody else to have nothing at all.
Thus endeth the sermon, but not the post.
So, this is where my “charity” goes:
Why? Not because Parkinson’s Disease killed my father- which it certainly did- but because for the last decade of his life it took his ability to speak away from him, this from a man who spent 35 years of his life sharing his ideas with thousands of very lucky students, myself included. Parkinson’s makes a prisoner of their own body, it’s…hellish.
Why? Because without the advances in transplant research they’ve both pioneered and funded my little brother would not be about to celebrate his 38th birthday and wouldn’t be the father of two beautiful little girls. All of this- and more- because our sister was his donor.
Why? I have battled depression since I was a teenager I have always found solace- and hope- in music. It has taken many forms, but one of the most important has been the blues- odd for rural white kid, I grant you- and this foundation does all it can to help out those who keep the blues alive.
I encourage each of you to do what you can for the organization/cause of your choice, whether it’s just writing a check or giving of your time.
If you’d like to do something football-related, you can start here:
If you can’t do any of these, just be nice to the person bagging your groceries, don’t tailgate a slow driver, or hold the door open for somebody.
Just be nice.