Humanism is about how to pursue a good life and in the process come to an understanding of oneself and one’s impact on the world. Yet for many, this pursuit may feel luxurious if one is putting all efforts into simply surviving (such as from paycheck to paycheck, fleeing war and other geopolitical conflicts, as well as the multitude of other ways in which individuals and groups may be marginalized or weakened).
I again was reminded of the struggles individuals face with the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to Houston, Texas. For some, eventually insurance coverage may right some of the losses encountered. However, for those living on the edge and who will not have insurance coverage, they may lose everything (and of course there is no way insurance coverage will ever cover the loss of a loved one who died in this disaster).
News media reminds us of the many, many people who suffer daily around the world. At times, I feel completely hopeless and helpless to do much of anything in the face of this seemingly worsening global suffering. I do engage in checkbook volunteerism to feel as if I am making some contribution towards helpful change and this helps me somewhat. I mobilized good to contribute to those in need but still am unsure of the impact it makes.
I will often shift myself from this overwhelming frustrating, saddening, angering, and helpless feeling by backing into my head where I rage against the misuse of power of the strong against the weak. It does exist, make no mistake about that, however, I tended to assign power to political leaders (and dictators) who have over the recorded history often used their position for personal gain.
And then I stopped myself. I saw yet again different type of power emerging from this disaster that I have seen before: many people coming together for a unified purpose of supporting their fellow human beings that went beyond political parties, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and all the ways we divide ourselves from each other in daily life. This was a power that far surpasses the political platitudes and missteps I so often see.
Instead, I am seeing that the influencers of today’s world, celebrities and high technology tycoons, are giving generously to the people of Houston. Communities are mobilizing their own resources to put together goods and clothing to send to Houston. Mexico, despite efforts to build a wall to divide us, is even sending goods to Texas.
Given all the divisiveness nationally and internationally that there is as of late, it was important for me to see how even at the most difficult of times, the better side of our human nature comes forward to support those in need. These actions are more promising and powerful. Robert Coles, a professor and hero of mine, wrote a book called "Handing One Another Along" about reminding others that how we treat each other is a key to what it means to be human.