Is it guilt? Is it a sense of overarching privilege that compels us to reach outside of ourselves? Is it selfish, even self-righteous and narcissistic? Or is it pure, born out of the deepest well of charity, of true compassion?
We give because we feel better when we do. Because it lifts us, makes us good. Is that bad? To want to feel good? Does it matter to whomever we touch that it benefits us as much, if not more, than them?
I live a life of privilege. There is always more to want. I am as materialistic as the next person. I like beautiful things. I appreciate quality. Ah yes. More. More space for the children, a larger room to entertain in. Soccer lessons and dance classes, karate and violin and piano. A handbag. Please, a new couch! A second car. My own iPad. A beach vacation, just the two of us -- my beloved and me. A trip to see my family who are so very far away. More.
Are those wants and desires intrinsically bad? They help keep people in jobs, families sustained. I remember the CEO of a former employer pleading with us in our New York offices a few days after 9-11. He begged us to remember in the midst of our grief and shock, how many families back at our Midwest plant were relying on the work we did in New York. Suddenly our (at the time) seemingly frivolous products took on new meaning. Perhaps it is not about how I consume, but why I consume. To indulge or to contribute. Maybe both.
Is it bad to desire every possible opportunity for my children? Lately, as I soothe my son's nightmares, I think about all the 5 year olds in the world whose scary monsters are real and not figments of their imagination, or the result of the movie their older sister watched. I pray that his monsters will always be imaginary, and vow to do more for those whose monsters are not. A different kind of more.
Maybe it is self-righteous. Maybe it is selfish. Maybe it is all for me. But I think about voice. And power. And standing up. With all my privilege, I have voice. I am compelled, obligated, driven, to say, "no more!"
* In their book, Half the Sky authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn cite data suggesting that between 60-100 million are missing from the world today. My use of the term 'gendercide' also comes from this text.
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