April 15, 2016:
You know what I think? I think that human beings are not inherently selfish. I think that deep down we all want to help others and make their journey a little bit easier. No, I’m not being naïve. Just think about it for a minute. Most of us want to see laughter replace the sad expression on a child’s face. We want to see the excitement that comes with genuine appreciation when we grant someone’s wish.
It’s for this reason that a mother will go hungry so that her offspring can have food to eat, even if that child is none the wiser; why a father works an extra job so that his daughter can take ballet lessons because he knows just how much she loves to dance. It’s why a complete stranger diverts from their original plans and goes out of their way to help someone who is lost or otherwise in need of help.
It’s our common humanity – that which connects us – that makes adversaries forget about their egos and their differences and help each other in times of hardship and suffering. And it’s infectious too; seeing someone helping out motivates others to help out too. Call it kindness, empathy, or just doing the right thing, but it’s not that foreign a concept to most.
Our challenge lies in choosing to recognise that common thread that links us all, noting our sameness, rather than focusing on what makes us different. The ego has its place, especially in competitions. However, it has been given too much importance in our lives, creating unnecessary rivalry and pushing compassion and kindness further towards the back of our thoughts.
A few years ago I came across some words taken from Collin Raye’s song, Not That Different, and they have resonated with me ever since:
“I laugh, I love, I hope, I try, I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry. And I know you do the same things too, So we’re really not that different, me and you.”
It’s that principle which is espoused in the philosophy of Ubuntu – “I am what I am because of who we all are”. It’s that which the late Kenyan political and environmental activist, social justice advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Wangari Maathai, spoke of:
“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
It’s in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
Shifting our focus away from what separates us is important for working together. But doing it more often, not just when there’s a major disaster, can have a powerful impact on all of us, not least of all those suffering in silence. And while this won’t usher in a utopian age, it can serve to enrich the lives of those who are helped and those who do the helping, making the world just a little bit better.