ValueSpeak

A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker

 

CARING, SHARING HEARTS AND HANDS

Spring is the season of life, of birth, of renewal.

I sense it as I work the ground and prepare the earth for the flowers and vegetables that will eventually bring beauty to my yard and nutrition to my table. I feel it as I prune the apple trees, trimming away the old to make room for the new. I see it in grass that is suddenly green and suddenly needs to be mowed.

Puttering in the garden on a cheery spring Saturday, with life bursting and blossoming all around me, it is difficult to imagine a different scenario. There is something about sinking a spade into rich, brown soil that makes you forget that somewhere on the other side of the world bombs are dropping, guns are firing and people -- fathers, mothers and children -- fear for their lives. It's as if we've suddenly been thrust into an episode of "Star Trek," and we're somehow co-existing with a parallel world.

Only it isn't a different world in which they live; it's our world. We share it. It's just that right now, they're getting more than their fair share of unpleasantness.

I guess it's sort of always been that way. When I was growing up, Mom used to urge me to eat my vegetables by reminding me of the starving children in China. I never could figure out how my gagging down Brussels sprouts would help some Chinese kid feel better about his situation. More than once I volunteered to personally package every vegetable in our garden (except the corn; I loved corn) and send it off to Peking or Hong Kong or wherever Chinese children were going hungry. And more than once I ended up sitting at the dinner table long after everyone else had been excused, staring at uneaten vegetables while remaining absolutely convinced that it was better to be a starving Chinese child than an American child with a stomach full of squash.

Of course, I was wrong about that. And so, it turns out, was Mom. While it is true that there were children starving in China at the time, there were also children starving in the United States. In our state. In our town.

Maybe even in our neighborhood.

That remains true today. All around us there are people -- seen and unseen -- who are struggling in ways we can't even imagine. They may not have to deal with bombs dropping out of the sky, but they face crises that are no less real, with bombs being dropped on their hearts and war being waged in their souls. While we putter in our gardens or play happily with our children, they are hungry, frightened, lonely, distressed. Their problems may be political, sociological, biological or environmental. They may even be problems that are entirely of their own making. When it comes right down to it, it really doesn't matter -- certainly not to them, nor should it to us.

When others are in crisis, our hearts should go out to them. But so should our hands. It isn't enough just to feel compassion. We need to be compassionate. We may not be able to do anything about the bombs that are being dropped in other parts of the world, but we can do something about the bombs of inhumanity that are being lobbed at people in our own communities. We can share with the hungry. We can stand up for the abused. We can comfort the weary and bereaved. We can provide a moment of loving companionship for those who face the world alone.

We can, and we should. After all, their suffering doesn't exist in some parallel world straight out of science fiction. It's our world. It's real. It's shared.

And it's spring.

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--- (c) Joseph Walker

 

Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.