Last week a group of strangers came together spontaneously to form a human chain to save a family of strangers from drowning in the ocean. No one stopped to blame the victims or rationalize why they should not help people in peril. No one questioned the religious beliefs, nationality, sexual orientation, political beliefs, race, ethnicity, income level, or job status of the drowning family. None of this was relevant. None of this mattered. A group of strangers got up, joined hands, battled the undertow, risked their own safety and security to save people in peril. By doing so, they made a difference.
This story impacted me deeply, because this kind of thing seems to be so rare these days when we're all so deeply entrenched in our virtual 'me bubbles.' This story got lost in the endless morass of the crap show in DC, but I think it's the best news we've had in a long time. All hope is not lost. There are still good people in the world willing to do the right thing in spite of the risk and without a reward.
"I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures." Lao TzuI believe this is the point of being here on this plane. I believe that is what every master came to tell us. I believe that life offers us constant opportunities to practice compassion and kindness. I also believe that we are all in this together. The truth is, not everyone starts with the same advantages and not everyone is given the same opportunities. Some of us start on the shore, and some of us are born into the undertow. Some of us are strong swimmers, some of us need floaties, flippers, or a lifeboat to stay above water. Chaos can hit people hard, and the fallout from chaos can extend to generations and create devastating cycles of poverty, neglect, and abuse. If you are born poor or become poor, the undertow gets very strong very quickly. An accident, an illness, the sudden loss of a job, the death of a partner, rejection from your parents, physical abuse, sexual assault, an abusive boss and complicit corporate structure, lies and innuendo, war, famine, flood, tainted food, poisoned air...these things can devastate a life and leave even strong swimmers gasping for air.
"Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values." Ellen DegeneresOnce you're stuck in the undertow and you begin to drown, it's well neigh impossible to extricate yourself, especially if you have no tools to assist your efforts. The more you struggle and try to swim to shore, the further you get sucked into the current.
"We are each made for goodness, love, and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live these truths." Desmond TutuSometimes people need a hand up. That means the rest of us need to get up and extend our hand. Because it's the right thing to do, and because we all need a hand up sometimes. There's a distinct difference between a hand up and a hand out. A hand up is bridge, a hand out is a dismissal. This distinction has been blurred by the relentless messaging of "personal responsibility" and "entitlement." We're being programmed to retreat into anger and fear and distrust. We're being duped into seeing the people stuck in the undertow as a threat to our happiness and success. This is a lie. Most people who need a hand up aren't looking for easy answers or a free ride. Most people are just looking for a life preserver so they can get their heads above water to breathe, some help to make it back to the shore, and a road map back to civilization so they can put one foot in front of the other and start marching bravely forward. If we could see this, again, and start coming up with more effective life preservers and travel assistance, and if we were personally involved in helping others help themselves, I believe more people would succeed. The more people who succeed, the more we all succeed. That's how this works.
"You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion." Meister EckhartThe problem is the undertow, not the people who find themselves stuck in it. The problem is the rising cost of living and the stagnation of living wages. The problem is a government that vilifies the poor while shamelessly profiteering from for profit prisons, for profit schools, offshore manufacturing, campaign contributions from unscrupulous corporations, and perpetual war. The problem is the robber barons and profiteers have taken full control once again, and they are doing everything they can to keep power and drive out dissent. The problem is that millions of voices have been silenced by gerrymandering and voter suppression. The problem is that millions more will be silenced if we lose net neutrality. The problem is that a stealth campaign of micro-targeted propaganda has lulled millions into the belief that we are not our brother's keeper and Big Brother has our best interests at heart.
"If we don't change from a society that worships money and power to one that worships compassion and generosity, I think we'll be extinct by mid-century." Patch AdamsWhat if we rejected this messaging, formed a human chain, and extended our hand to the people caught in the undertow? What if we stopped asking how they got there and rationalizing allowing them to drown? What would happen if we became a Chain Gang, for compassion, kindness, and good?
"The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." AesopLast week, a group of strangers came together to save a family of strangers from drowning in the undertow, because it was the right thing to do. We are our brother's keeper. We are in this together. There is no 'us and them', there is only 'us.' Don't let anyone make you forget it.
"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." The 14th Dalai Lamaxoxo,