Who is incapable of hatred towards any being, who is kind and compassionate, free from selfishness . . . such a devotee of Mine is My beloved.
- The Bhagavad Gita 12
When he was four years old, my son Christopher was a dedicated miser. He collected money. He hunted for it under couch cushions, on the street, in the park. He unabashedly solicited handouts from visiting uncles, showed up at “allowance time” like clockwork, and then, repeatedly and carefully counted the small weekly sum. He preferred to receive it in the smallest denominations – nickels instead of dimes, pennies instead of nickels – because it was “more.” He did extra chores to add to his booty. He kept it stashed in a blue velvet bag, which had originally contained a gift bottle of cologne. He spent hours counting out his money, announcing each increase in his fortune with great pride. It actually had me a little worried. He refused to spend it and at times went without ice cream or some other treat he really wanted.
One evening, a television documentary came on about a drought in Africa. I got up to change the channel, wondering if this would be appropriate for Christopher to see. He said, “Leave it, Mommy. I want to see.” I thought perhaps it would be valuable for him to learn of the troubles of people across the world. The scenes of emaciated children crying in hunger mesmerized him. At the end of the show, there was a pledge campaign. Christopher went running from the room and returned, carrying his blue bag. He placed it on my lap and said, “Mommy, can I send this to those children?” “Yes, Chris, you can.” “Then, send it, Mommy,” he said. “All of it.”
-Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues ©1996
Man discovers his own wealth
When God comes to ask gifts from him.
- Rabindranath Tagore
Albert Pike once said, “Out of all the relations of life grow duties, as naturally and as undeniably as the leaves grow upon the trees.” Numerous instances in our day-to-day experience are opportunities to step up to the duties that life presents. Not all opportunities require sacrificing our life. Some offer recognition for one’s efforts, but most do not. While hundreds cheer and encourage the Fire Department personnel who are searching through the rubble of ruined buildings and damaged lives for their fallen comrades, neighbors and visitors, they would gladly forgo any amount of gratitude expressed in favor of finding just one more person alive in the wreckage. Those who serve the public safety place their life on the line each day, knowing that each day - perhaps any moment - may be their last. Any given day may be the last for anyone, in point of fact. I owe it to my fellow beings to pass on, in every way that presents itself, the multitude of great and small sacrifices that others make on my behalf or that of others. If I do not act when the opportunity is at hand, the effect of those sacrifices is surely diminished. If I act upon this unspoken obligation, the effect of the sacrifice of others is not merely continued, but reverberates and becomes amplified to countless others.
Shouldering such duties requires action. Generosity and kindness naturally lead me to make sacrifices, and for that which I care deeply, no risk should be too great. Pike also said, “The trials of life are the blessings of life, to the individual or the Nation, if either has a Soul that is truly worthy of salvation.” The performance of any of life’s duties can become holy, for as St Teresa of Avila said, “Nothing is small if God accepts it.”
Without charity, compassion and understanding toward others, I am simply a ‘sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.’ Each individual can be effective, no matter his or her situation, nationality or system of belief, and thus might all share in the honor and glory of the result. If I am to espouse a cause, let it be the cause of humankind, not merely that of my own country or of any system of belief. Where individuals or groups seek to take away life or liberty, resisting their actions is not only a duty that I owe to my neighbor but one I owe to my Creator. Such resistance asserts and maintains the rank given to all individuals in their very creation, but must be exercised with honor and compassion. As a nation or as individuals, our sword must have two edges: Justice and Mercy. While some may labor and perhaps die on behalf of just retribution, let others labor on the side of peace and forbearance, relieving miseries of the fallen, supplying wants of the needy and ministering to necessities for those who are in their community. While honoring the dead, we must never forget our obligations to the living. All must do that which is in their power; let none shirk! Denying this, professing that there is nothing to be done at this critical juncture, this crisis point in human history, is self-deception in its very essence.
One such opportunity is to give someone the gift of your time, listening to and sharing in their joy or their pain. According to Mary-Lou Casey, “What people really need is a good listening-to.” Steve Goodier, author and publisher of numerous Life Support System Books received a message from a woman in New York after the recent tragedy there. She explained that her 22-year-old electrician son went to Manhattan last week. I would like to share Joe’s story with you. “On the train home, he sat across from a weary firefighter covered in what appeared to be ‘ground zero’ dirt and debris. Though he could see bits of rock in the man’s hair and noticed that his hands were bloody, what shocked the young man most was the look in the firefighter’s eyes. They appeared lifeless and dull. Then the man began to talk and Joe listened.
“He talked about retrieving a shoe with a foot inside. Joe listened. He talked about cleaning debris from a face, then discovering that this person’s body was gone. Joe listened. And as his listened, he did not flinch. He did not react in disgust. He did not judge. He did not interrupt. He just listened. He listened as the firefighter lamented about the carnage everywhere and about shoes...there were so many shoes, he said. Everywhere...shoes.
“Through it all Joe quietly held the man’s attention and listened, which is exactly what the rescue worker needed at that moment. And because he listened, the man continued to speak. He talked his pain out, as much as possible. And Joe, for that time at least, helped him carry his unbelievably heavy burden. That day Joe did not give blood, nor did he use his electrical skills to help with the relief effort. But he did one of the most important things a human can do for another. He gave a stunned and disheartened man his whole attention, and thereby immeasurably assisted in the work of setting the world right.”
Similar to the idea that what Mother Earth brings forth in abundance is for the use of humankind, so am I created to serve my fellow creatures, sometimes by receiving, sometimes by giving, and sometimes to cement human society through my arts, my industry or my resources. The Universe has been created as an arena for development of the individual through sin and suffering, as well as by adopting the noblest of passions, lofty virtues and most tender sympathies. I find myself in the company of not only the low and the cruel individual in this life, but that of the wise, the good, the active, the loving and the dear. I need not be responsible for the rightness of my faith, but I am responsible for the uprightness of exercising it. I can choose to answer violence with anger, or with love; I am presented with an opportunity to emulate the examples of peacemakers throughout the ages.
The competition for external power, or the fear of losing such power, seems to be a root cause of man’s violence against his fellow man. With a perception of power as external, the hierarchies of mankind’s social, economic and political structures seem to be all-powerful while ordinary people seem to be powerless. Quite the opposite is the case, and that is one of the most important things my Creator would have me learn in this life. The day may yet come when all of mankind comes to a realization, a deeper understanding that the authentically empowered self which lies within each individual will render all of mankind incapable of making anyone a victim.
The hope of success, rather than reward and recognition, is that force which motivates and sustains me in sacrifice and the performance of compassionate duty. I do that which is right, only because it is right, and therefore ought to be done. I seek daily opportunities for noble action as if, all my life, I had led righteous armies, governed countries benevolently, or had visited those who struggle with sickness and pain. In the midst of anger, divisive thoughts and destructive actions, I can be a source of love, healing thoughts and constructive actions.
I may not have the opportunity to offer my heart to the enemy’s bullets, but I can unite with the authentically empowered in preventing or remedying and reforming that which is wrongful, cruel or outrageous. Here before us is just such an opportunity, my friends. Let us not fail one another.
Peace and Light, Michael
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