If you think well of others, you will also speak well of others and to others. If your heart is full of love, you will speak of love.
- Mother Teresa
The world is not made up of you, the people you know and people like you, people with your biases and prejudices, your tastes and preferences, your standards of ethics and morals.
It's made up of nearly seven billion people you have never met, whose lives you know nothing about, whose cultures you know little about, whose backgrounds, fears, family values and daily struggles you can't comprehend based on your experience.
Do not assume that because you and your friends believe something or that because you can justify to yourselves some line of thinking or point of view that you can speak for them. They don't want you to speak on their behalf any more than you would want them to act for you.
Men and women around the world have many characteristics in common. However, what most of us think life is like for us relates to our culture, not to those common characteristics.
We all want to experience happiness. It would be a shameful experience to calculate how little time and effort we devote to those who lack more experience with happiness because they're too busy finding food for themselves and their families, some way to earn money so they can buy something with which to shelter themselves or simply a way to avoid being killed in the night.
We all experience fear. Many fears. Everyone has them, though we try to cover them up and pretend otherwise. What do we do to help relieve the causes of fear and risk in countries where it dominates the lives of most citizens? In some cases, we engage in war to "liberate" them. So, how do you think that has worked out?
We all need love, as Mother Teresa suggested. How can we offer love to people we have never met? People whose lives we know nothing about?
Love has two basic components. One is security. Think about the people you love. Don't you want to protect them when you can? Think about those who love you. Surely they try, in their own ways, to provide some security and dependability for your life.
Touch is the other component of love. We don't think of love that way usually. We think of love as something mysterious that either happens or it doesn't. That's not because love doesn't have common characteristics, but because we aren't familiar with the physical characteristics of love. Other than the physical component of sex, which is but one small part of the totality of love.
Touch is a critical component of love for those closest to us. The more two people who love each other share their love with touch, the more secure they feel. That applies to parents and children as well as to lovers. We even tend to measure the love that another has for us by the amount and the kind of touch they offer to us. Yes, touch is a "love meter."
When children grow up and separate from parents, often by long distances in this modern world of international economy, what the distant kin remember--what holds them together as "loved ones"--is their memory of how they used to show their love for each other through touch. They may not consciously think of it as touching each other, but touch will be a component of almost every good memory they have of sharing love.
A smile is the closest we can come to showing love for someone without actually touching them. A smile is sort of "love by proxy." That's why everyone appreciates having a smile from others they know and even from strangers. We show our love for other members of our species--even to our pets--with smiles. Somehow our pets understand that kind of love, though they, like us, would prefer to receive it through touch.
Most of us find it hard to ease the fears of people we never see and to better their lives with loving touch and smiles. But it can be done.
Next time you watch one of those television commercials that asks you to donate a dollar a day to help orphaned children in Africa or people in some war-torn, poverty-stricken part of the world, note how often those making the appeal touch those needing your help. They do for strangers what you can't do. These organizations usually have lots of people who would like to work in such situations, but they can't afford to send more than they can support with food, shelter and defence.
Do you travel to other countries on vacation? If you look, you will find treasures as valuable in poor countries as in wealthier ones that can afford to advertise to attract your tourist money. You can actually see more, meet more people and learn about them, travel cheaper and give the cash you saved to those who need it in poorer countries. With your smiles and your casual touch you can share your love with them.
You will find yourself thinking that if you lived in similar circumstances you would likely do the same sorts of things they do to survive. That empathy will demonstrate to you how much of the truly important parts of life we all have in common.
To accomplish these suggestions, you will have to defy the advertising that those with money throw your way to get you to spend lavishly in their countries.
Then your choice will be whether money or love is more important to you.
Mother Teresa had millions of people who loved her. She had no money to spend on them. What she had to share was a smile, a touch. They loved her back for the love she gave to them. Her cost: nothing. Her rewards: priceless.
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers who want to grow socially and emotionally healthy children, not just intellectually and physically healthy ones.
Learn more at http://billallin.com