Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Awakening the soft spot

It is a daily struggle to decide whether to give to beggars. Knowing that there is a lack of a well developed safety net we sometimes give money to disabled adults. Around Nepal there are signs asking people to not give money to children begging in the streets as it encourages them to keep doing it and harms them in the long run. However it is heart breaking to look into the eyes of a six year old child asking for money while you enjoy your leisurely breakfast. I imagine many of the children are begging as their family or caregiver requires it. A young boy about seven and girl about six approached us today. I know providing them money can be damaging but I could not turn away with out buying them some breakfast. I recently read in the local paper about a mother killing herself and her two children as she could not afford about $3.00 Canadian in school fees. On the trek we saw a child happily dragging around his one wheeled bicycle.(Had there been a bike repair shop in the vicinity I can tell you J would have fixed it on the spot). And another child playing volley ball with a wadded up plastic bag over a piece of twine.

Everyday there is something that makes you smile and something that breaks your heart. I guess the secret is to not become immune to either. And to do what we can to make this world a kinder and more equitable place. I am so grateful, and protective of, our Canadian safety nets, such as universal health care. There is always room for improvement but we must be vigilant in protecting it. I know compared to majority of the world I am extremely fortunate. If you have not already seen it, take a moment to watch the following video, A Miniature Earth;

There are some charities operating here including the terrific SOS Children's Village; a wonderland faith neutral child sponsorship program. (We have sponsored a girl in China for a few years via this program.) Some other great charities include: Kiva which provides micro loans to assist people in developing their own businesses and providing a path out of poverty, Smile Train; which repairs cleft palettes, UNICEF and Red Cross - disaster relief.

Watching the following video and reading the accompanying book; The Life You Can Save a few years ago changed my approach to charitable giving.

We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole. This separateness becomes like a prison for us, a prison that restricts us to our personal hopes and fears and to caring only for the people nearest to us. Curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet when we don’t close off and we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama describes two kinds of selfish people: the unwise and the wise. Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, and the result is confusion and pain. Wise people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy.

When we see a woman and her child begging on the street, when we see a man mercilessly beating his terrified dog, when we see a teenager who has been badly beaten or see fear in the eyes of a child, do we turn away because we can’t bear it? Most of us probably do. Someone needs to encourage us not to brush aside what we feel, not to be ashamed of the love and grief it arouses in us, not to be afraid of the pain. Someone needs to encourage us that this soft spot in us could be awakened and that to do this would change our lives. [Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart, p. 87-88]

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