A friend said to me, with anger and deep conviction,
“We live in a nation of ‘takers’.”
I disagreed, and told him so. I told him It is true, there as some who need our help, but needing help isn’t something to be ashamed of. We all need help from time to time, and so we shouldn’t look down on those who do now lest we unfairly look down upon our future or past selves.
He was adamant, however, and said that even if I couldn’t see it there were “takers” all around us. I told him that if I conceded that there were such people, then I would have to considered myself a “giver”, as I willingly and happily help those in need. Here his eye lit up, victory shining in them, and said,
“Then let me bring the ‘takers’ to you so that you might hear them selfishly wail for what is rightfully yours, then you will understand.”
Those in need were brought to me en masse. So many there were that I couldn’t see where they ended from where I stood. The din was deafening. Shouts came from every direction, asking for theirs from my own. I sighed, knowing what both they and my friend have failed to see. I called for silence, then spoke.
“I cannot give to you,” I told them. Their shouts turned angry.
“But you have so much and we so little,” shouted a woman.
“You’re just selfish! You don’t deserve all you have!” shouted a man.
My friend beamed, clearly pleased with himself, and leaned in. “Do you see now? Hear them yearn and call for yours, expecting it as their due yet having done nothing to earn it. They do not deserve your help, they are ‘takers’.”
I smiled and laid a hand on his shoulder, “You are mistaken, my friend.”
I turned back to the seething crowd and called for silence.
“Your numbers are great. Were I to try to help you I would fail, as I haven’t enough to give each of you what you need, and in the process I would become more destitute than any of you here. No one person can answer the needs of all. We need as many, so we must help as many. Desperate times make for desperate people, fueled further by feelings of helplessness to affect change in your own lives – I know this is your pain, and I understand it. Though hard work and fortune I have achieved, yet others have done just as much and have not – this too I understand. Even more were never blessed with the opportunities that were made available to me. And for all that I have achieved, I may yet find myself, or another I love, where you are today, and so I would be remiss to think you should treat me any differently than I would treat you here today. Go now, and I will rally the other givers in the hope that we might help each of you find happiness and peace in your lives.”
As the crowd dispersed my friend turned to me, “I fear you won’t see the ‘takers’ for who they are until it is too late and what’s your finds its way into their hands. It is then you will taste their thanklessness and greed.”
“We shame them for accepting our aid, then think to resent them for not appreciating it. These practices only dig the hole we all stand in deeper, and finds the shovels in our hands. There will always be those who don’t appreciate what they have nor what they’re given, but should we change ourselves for them? I say no. Ten will sing your praises and strive to better themselves, but if you can only hear the one who demands more while lazily refusing to change, then you turn your back on love and joy to embrace bitterness, and will have only yourself to blame.”
My friend said nothing, but looked quite displeased. I pressed him further.
“My friend, you are smart, of this there can be no doubt. Would you say this is your own doing?”
“Yes, of course!” he replied, “I studied and worked very hard, and continue to to this day!”
“Again, of this there can be no doubt. But, did you pay for your schooling? Did you teach yourself from books you wrote? Did you imbue yourself with your capacity to understand? Was it you who made your passion and profession one, as well as make them lucrative? We may want to believe that no others helped us and that we alone reached our current stations, but that is but foolish pride and a swollen ego blinding us. We cannot exist alone, let alone thrive, therefore we must all be givers and takers at times. And if our society lacks the values and skills that it need to succeed, then we cannot sit by. We are not outside our own communities, we are a part of them, and thus are responsible for them, not just ourselves. You can choose to say that problems in the community are not yours to attend to, but then you can’t also bemoan their existence for you gave up your chance to change it. But take heart, it’s never too late to change, and in doing so change the lives of those around us.”