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Intrinsic Joy

January 6, 2020 (500 words)

At this late stage in life, some of us older folks find ourselves with a modest amount of disposal income on our hands, something we couldn’t have imagined during our challenging child-rearing years.

We are encouraged to share this spare cash with any number of worthy organizations – local, national, and international – that depend on the largesse of the general public to fund their charitable efforts on behalf of the less fortunate.

These organizations tend to inundate us with a barrage of promotional literature throughout the year, reminding us how vital our donations are to their outreach.

Their mailings always feature heart-wrenching stories of people struggling with the daily necessities of life. Sometimes pictures of the recipients are included. Sometimes those pictures are in color.

All of which are effective tools in keeping our privileged, First World minds somewhat aware of what so much of the rest of the world faces on a regular basis.

But at the risk of undermining the accurate message of need, all is not necessarily doom and gloom for those living in impoverished circumstances. At least this can be said of the Majority World, where the poor are simply not exposed to “plenty” in their immediate surroundings.

Despite having limited material resources, such parents still harbor an abiding love for their children. If those children are convinced of that love – and have a reasonable amount of food to eat every day – they are generally speaking not pre-occupied with what they don’t have.

For those of us who might be ahead of the game, it can be easy to forget there is a dignity we all share by being human, and a joy that is intrinsic to being alive. This is true regardless of where one may have to sleep at night, or the clothes one gets to wear during the day.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of superiority. Our own good fortune can be largely chalked up to a twist of fate, a geographic anomaly, and doesn’t mean we are any wiser or more virtuous than those who have less.

So by all means let’s continue to be charitable in any way we can. Everyone in this world deserves a roof over their head, and running water, and enough food to eat.

But let’s remember the people we are helping possess the same dignity and experience the same joy as we do.

In some cases the simple joy the disadvantaged derive from their close family ties may in fact exceed our own, since they are not burdened with the array of worldly distractions we must navigate.

In the end they can be said to enjoy the advantage over us in this regard. It’s easier for them not to be corrupted by the things of this world, since they have so few of those things at hand.

Such is the lesson the poor can teach us – the gift they can bestow – if we are amenable.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
January 6, 2020

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