A Helping Heart

So, my family arrived in the 21st century when they created a Yahoo! Group so that all of those living in different countries could keep in touch regularly with everyone instead of catching up once every two or three years.

One of my uncles once described our family as something akin to ‘Hotel California’. I will not fault this description. Anyway, they tend to discuss all sorts of ‘worldly-and-otherwise matters’, and I watch and very, very rarely pitch in with my 2p that usually disappears in the noise. A recent discussion was focused on disillusionment with life and the world, and one of my superhuman grannies said the following (unedited):

Talking of illusion.When you are dreaming you see so many things and feel so many emotions.At that time it is the reality.When you get up from sleep there is a different reality.These are two different state of mind.You can not exist in these two states simultaneously however knowledgeable you may be.For a man who is dreaming to understand that it is a dream he has to wake up.

I want to believe that what I am seeing in the world is not real.If and when I move on to the next stage I will see a better world.There is no other way to be reconciled to the injustice and cruelty all around you

It set me thinking on how I view ‘the horrors of life’. Or others’ lives.

I personally don’t find a need for a “why” when I see all the travesties of the world. They just are, and they always will be, in one form or another, and I can perfectly coexist with them while doing my bit to see them lessened. It is simply the nature of the living – there will always be some form of disparity or injustice, and there will always be people wanting to see them gone. Ultimately, when I die, I will take relief in the fact that I did my bit, and lived my life to the fullest – if there is something beyond that moment, I will deal with it in the same way!

Is this a fault of my generation – that I think about these things with my head and not my heart?┬áIf the heart wasn’t involved, I wouldn’t feel the need to do what I can to help lessen someone else’s burden. I would just go my own, selfish little way. A perfectly rational, realistic approach (don’t shut off here, just think about it), but that’s what the annoying heart-thingy doesn’t want, right? ;)

I think the problem my generation might face is not a lack of ‘heart’ per se, but that of exposure. At least in the middle class and above, the oldies (sorry!) have done all the slogging to ensure a reasonably comfortable life, and the young ‘uns don’t get to see how the poorer half live, or don’t understand/appreciate how much their families struggled to get to where they are. In my case, I am somehow or the other reminded everyday of how much my family has given to get me to where I am today (warts and all), and the random chance that was kind enough to me to give me this family in the first place, and that alone is feeling/heart enough to make me want to give something back to them and the other not-so-fortunate world.

It’s true, I don’t tear myself up over all the starving people and genocide victims in Africa, or those of the earthquake in Japan – I try to push my limits to help. I feel bad when I can’t and sometimes indulge in wishful thinking of ‘if only life was kind to everyone’ or ‘I wish there were something better after this life that we all go to’, and sometimes it even makes me cry – but I don’t for a minute see how the living can expect to escape chance, unfortunate events or circumstances, and I certainly don’t expect my hope for that ‘something better’ to keep me going.

People are different, and they have different ways of dealing with these things. There are as many ‘right’ ways of dealing with it as there are people (and that number was inching towards seven billion the last time I checked). There is definitely something wrong if I am callous towards the unfortunate – but as long as I appreciate the fact that it could have been me instead of them, I think I’m doing all right. What do you say?



  1. I think this is a very good way of thinking about it and dealing with it. We cannot save everybody, but we can be empathetic, understanding, and aware of what others are going through… and we can do our best to do what we can under the circumstances. I could write a whole blog post about this, myself. I struggle with these thoughts a lot.

  2. Pingback: A Helping Heart (via The Epicurean Inkblot) «

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