Helping people in need is one of the fundamental principles of leading a good life that I believe in. Another is treating people with respect. Both can be challenging at times.
I believe that little gestures matter to create the civil, welcoming and compassionate society that we all desire. Offering your seat on the subway to a person with a small child. Waiting patiently in line at the cash desk while an elderly person takes time to fumble with the change. Holding the door for someone carrying a large package. Approaching a person who fell on the side walk and offering your help.
These are small things. What about bigger things? I have always been hesitant to get involved with what one could call social activism. While many causes seem worthy, the vigor (or rigor?) with which some activists pursue them makes me cautious. I feel that in many areas, there are two sides to the story, and I am not knowledgeable enough about all the details to decide who is right or wrong.
Consequently, I have not gotten involved. Having lived probably more than half of my life already, I wonder though if this is enough. Is trying to be decent to your family, your friends, your colleagues and to casual acquaintances enough? Is hanging my laundry on the clothes line instead of using the dryer and trying to use public transit instead of the car enough? Is giving a few hundred dollars per year to charity enough? When I’m 75 or 80 and looking back on my life, will I feel I’ve done enough for the community that I’ve lived in and that has afforded me so many opportunities and conveniences?
Reading about the refugee situation in Europe, and the German response in particular, has really touched me. And I am starting to think that, no, just pursuing my own interests, focusing on my business and my family, and trying to be a good person while I go about my day is not enough. I should do more.
So I signed up for the Médecins sans Frontière campaign ‘Walk without Border’. www.walkwithoutborders.ca
The idea is you set yourself a goal on how many kilometers you will walk by October 15, and you fundraise. To me, this campaign made sense. One, I regularly contribute to MSF. Two, I like walking. Three, I think of individuals and families who walk long distances to escape violence and horror, taking on incredible hardships en route in the hope to give themselves and their children a better future.
You can sponsor me by going to the website and searching up my name, Barbara McGrath. Or you can join the walk yourself.
Of course, like many people, I also think how can this go on? Surely, not all the displaced and desperate can come to the richer countries? It is a mind-boggling problem, and I can’t think of a good answer. But I want to cry when I hear people talk about how some of these refugees could be terrorists, how others maybe just seek to enrich themselves and ride on the coattails of our wealthy society. Really? Have you not seen the photos and videos? Where is your compassion with these fellow humans?
So I decided to speak out in favour of accepting more refugees. In favour of sharing our wealth, however painful that may be. Not because I have a long-term vision of how the disparities that exist in the world can be addressed. But because it is the right thing to do now.
I read in an article in Metro magazine the other day that 44% of Canadians volunteer for various causes. That is amazing! To date, I have not been one of them. But now I am thinking about it.