With all the horrifying things that are happening around the world, I find it hard to watch the news these days. To be honest, I rarely do. It’s not that I’m not interested in the world, on the contrary. I think we should never close our eyes for the suffering of other human beings. Even more, I see it as our duties of Westerners having the luck to be born in one of the richest countries in the world to help the less fortunates as much as we can.
But those are principles. In reality, I’m doing far less than I should and could for people suffering. To be more specific: I’m doing nothing.
Nothing to save people from starvation and poverty. Nothing to protect little girls from rape and prostitution. Nothing to find shelter for all those refugees living nowhere. Nothing to save Africans trying to reach Europe by ocean. Hell, I’m not even giving a leaf of bread to this poor man who always pokes around in the garbage bin in front of my house. I just watch as he sticks his dirty fingers in the bin and gets them out with half filled bottles, apple cores, rests of french fries with ketchup. The other day, I saw him tearing a bunch of used handkerchiefs out of the bin and putting them in the pockets of his old jacket. As he made his stiff and purposeless way round the corner, I was trying not to think about where he would use them for and at the same time I wondered why I didn’t offer this man a hot bath and use of my toilet – or anything. And then I turned on my clean, well shoed feet and went on with the rest of my day.
I have not always been like this. As a little girl, I used to weep over any suffering I came across, thinking of ways to help those suffering and debating with my mum to realize my plans. I couldn’t see a 555-campaign – especially those with African babies having big brown eyes and flies crawling over their pretty little faces – without emptying my piggy bank and convincing my class mates to do the same. And I remember those French holidays, my parents strolling endlessly in these little old villages and me standing still at every clochard lying in the street, begging my mum and dad to pick him up and take him with us, or at least that little dog lying beside him, or at least give the poor man some francs or baguette. I also remember what my mum used to say, as she firmly took my hand and walked further. She said: don’t be ridiculous. And as I insisted, or stamped my feet, or cried (mostly the latter), she said: it’s not good to give those people any money. Because if we do, the government will never do anything to help them.
It’s probably the biggest crap anyone has ever told me.
But apparently I took it for granted, because I became this grownup that doesn’t do anything, expecting the governments in this world to find solutions for all the problems.
What came between that grownup and the little girl? If only I knew. Maybe then I could find a way back to that girl and her natural compassion. Because I like her a whole lot more.