Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Haves And The Have-Nots ...

We become acutely aware of it, even at a young age.

The haves and have-nots show themselves in clothes and toys. Some kids have everything first, other kids lag far behind.

As if a continuum of stuff is any kind of worthwhile measure.

I remember standing in the living room of the house in which I grew up, asking my mom if we were rich.

Of course we weren't. We lived in a raised bungalow on a block that looked like a Monopoly board for its architectural sameness. Houses were distinguished by the colors of the railings or a bit of decorative block built into the front facades. Our accent color, speaking of Monopoly, was green. But not quite Monopoly-house green. Our green was slightly more jade. The color of spearmint.

But we had steak for dinner. Often. My friends didn't eat steak all the time the way we did. Then again, my friends' parents didn't buy sides of beef at a time. We did. My father's friend Roger had a dairy farm and some of his cows, well, they ended up in neatly wrapped white packages, neatly stacked in our basement's full-size freezer. Apparently, a half a cow yields a fair amount of steak. And so, when mom was stumped for a dinner idea, steak was on the menu.

So much so that I grew sick of it. She'd very kindly make a chicken breast for me instead.

Rich, though, we were not.

What defines "rich" is open to interpretation, of course. If you have to ask, you're probably not.

Last week, I read about a new Lexus that's been in development for five years and will begin to be delivered later this year.

Only 500 will be produced in the world. There are more people on the waiting list than there will be cars, so prospective owners will be selected to receive a car. Lexus wants its cars to be driven, seen, not parked in garages as part of lavish collections. Why, I wonder? It's not as though anyone else will be able to buy one.

The price tag? $350,000.


Yes, $350,000 for a car.

I find that, frankly, sickening.

Yes, I'm a bleeding-heart liberal, but as a friend recently said, "I'd rather have a bleeding heart than none at all."

Friday night, I finally saw "The Blind Side." The theater was packed, the effect of The Golden Globes last weekend, I reckon. By the time it was over, two Kleenexes were soaked through.

What an extraordinary story.

And watching it, I felt much the way I did when I saw "The Soloist," the realization of what can happen when someone simply cares.

Well, cares and acts.

Who knows how much of Leigh Anne and Sean Touhy's money went toward Michael Oher's education and other needs, but it was money well spent. Money that others might spend on a $350,000 car to sit in a climate-controlled garage, they spent to help someone change his life.

Of course, they could well afford their immense act of love, monetarily.

But they didn't just write a check. It is their selflessness that is so striking. Money gave Michael an advantage he otherwise would not have had, but more important than the money was the love, the humanity, the opening up of one's family to another, not for any incentive, but simply because it is what we should do.

Granted, not everyone can make a gesture on that scale, but every act of kindness counts.

Contrast that with this:

Friday night, as I was watching the story of the Touhys, George Clooney, ever the humanitarian, was presenting, with the help of a slew of his famous friends, a telethon to raise money for the people of Haiti.

And someone I know on Facebook posted this: "Does it make me a bad person that I'm annoyed that the 'Hope for Haiti' telethon is on every friggin' channel?"

I was stunned.

I commented: "Well, since you asked, um, yeah, it does. It's a few hours to help an entire country that's been devastated by a natural disaster. Pop in a DVD." [It wasn't even "a few"; it was two.]

Here's a person who's on a computer in a comfortable home in a lovely part of the world, with their spouse and children, all of whom are safe and sound. The children have not been orphaned nor lost. They have electricity and Internet access, and, I suspect, satellite TV service, watching said telethon on what I presume is a flat-panel television. They have drinking water and plenty of food and clean clothing and every other advantage that comes in living in one of the richest nations on the planet.

But they're annoyed because for two hours – two hours – the airwaves were given over to people who could have easily stayed home and called their accountant and authorized a big check but who instead came together to raise money to help the people of nation whose lives have literally been flattened, who had little to begin with but who now want even more for the most basic human needs, like clean water and simple food and whatever medical care they can receive? Whose mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters have been lost to a death toll so large it is almost impossible to comprehend?

I was the only person to answer in the affirmative. Everyone else reassured the poster that they're not a bad person. Said one: "It doesn't make you a bad person. Why does it have to be on EVERY channel?"

Seriously? Because by airing it on EVERY channel (and it wasn't on EVERY channel; we have more channels than we can watch), they were able to raise as much money as possible to help a devastated nation.

I can't fathom that kind of callousness. If the worst thing to happen to them that day was that their usual Friday-night programming was preempted to help victims of a massive earthquake, they're leading very, very blessed lives.

That they can't empathize, that their first reaction isn't to pick up the phone and give whatever they can but to instead be annoyed saddens me greatly.

On my Facebook page, I display this quote:

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”
— Seneca

There will always be haves and have-nots, I know. But let's let kindness exist in the divide.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The website related to the concert ... ... had a nifty interactive map going where you could watch and read tweets from around the world. It also measured Twitter activity related to the benefit in each country. I was struck by how much of the United States was "Twitter silent" during the concert, while reaction poured in from other parts of the world ... including Haiti. I believe in my heart that Americans are truly generous people and quick to rush to the aid of the world (sadly, though, not so much for our own country as we saw in New Orleans). Maybe we have fatigue; after a few terrible years in our own country (and a few international disasters), maybe we've run out of help (or hope). I hope that's not true. I know I had already given considerable money to the Haitian relief and I gave more Friday night because I was so thrilled with the performances. But I'm also a big believer in the Biblical adage ... to whom much is given, much is expected. And I have a lot. I am amused by the complaint about the TV channels, however, as the concert was broadcast on, I believe, 55 networks in the U.S. That still leaves about 450 other places people could go for TV. So turn the channel if you don't like it. There were plenty of choices. Probably also a good idea to keep those kinds of thoughts off of Facebook!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Doreen said...

I think I would have verbally bitch slapped the poster and then de-friended them. I do not have time or band width in my life to be associated with that kind of negative energy - it is bad enough that I sharte the same blood with some of those types.

Better to have a bleeding heart than none at all ... INDEED!!!! Can you pass the gauze?

Great post - thank you!

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't you a bit judgmental yourself? How do you know this person didn't already donate to Haiti? Or that he/she has a blessed life? Sure his/her comment came off as a bit callous, but to then go on about his/her overall lack of empathy? How do you know? I myself went through an earth-shattering/devastating time in my life, and yeah, now at times, like when I see Hollywood "come together" for a cause, I roll my eyes. Does it make me a bad person? Perhaps, but it doesn't mean I still don't contribute (in whatever way I can) to others in need.

5:26 PM  
Blogger said...

Prosperity and what it means to each person brings up so much. I truly think I'm gonna be such a better person when I'm rich.
Big wink.

3:58 PM  

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