Growing up as a privileged white-skinned child in apartheid era South Africa, I was always aware of the thin line that separated my life from those of the millions of underprivileged children who inhabited the same land.
I never understood the politics back then, but I knew it was inherently wrong and that I wanted to be a part of the positive change that must surely come about to right such inequality.
I was an extremely idealistic teenager, and as such suffered much disillusionment and disappointment when I discovered just how difficult and dangerous it was to effect political change, even on a micro scale.
At university, still in Africa, I realized that the only person I had any control over was myself, and that the only way I was ever going to change anything, however minute, was dependent on how I communicated my ideals and beliefs to others and how persuasive that communication was.
I also realized that leading by example was the only way to influence others and that even a tiny, seemingly insignificant act of kindness could be the catalyst for change.
It is so easy for us to look around at the massive scale of suffering in the world and to be totally overwhelmed, concluding that as individuals we are powerless to do anything to change the situation. So, we do nothing.
We see images of children dying of cholera in Haiti; malnourished, sick and dying victims of the constant war in Sudan; refugee families living in overcrowded tent camps in Afghanistan; AIDS sufferers and orphaned children in Africa; child slaves in India; flood victims in China; displaced tsunami survivors in Indonesia; homeless people on the streets in our cities; people we know and love dying of cancer; friends battling to cope with depression or the demands of caring for mentally handicapped relatives; lonely old people left to die in run-down retirement homes ….
The list goes on – there is so much suffering in our world and in our communities, so many areas that are in dire need of our small contributions of love, time or money.
Charity comes in many forms, starting with a simple smile, kind words of encouragement or getting together with friends to host a morning tea for cancer research. We can all do something to change the world. It is not difficult, or time-consuming, or even expensive. It is just something we have to commit to, something we have to make room for, because it is the right thing to do.
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis or AIDS, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbour …” ~ Mother Teresa
It is up to each one of us to notice what is happening around us and to do something to make a difference. And it is also up to each one of us to teach our children the importance of showing kindness and charity to those less fortunate.
The challenge in our full and frantically busy lives, is this:
Have I made room in my life for charity?
For, to quote a well-known proverb:
“There but for the grace of God, go I.”
Images in this post are dedicated to all those who have been touched in some way by cancer.