Had I grown up as a privileged child, my empathy for those suffering would have remained dormant, I’m sure.
Instead, my siblings and I grew up poor. Furnishings were sparse in our rented housing. The one birthday party we hosted was a nightmare of embarrassment. I also endured the taunts of other children due to ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothing from a relative 18 months younger but better fed and taller.
This didn’t mean I had nothing warm to wear in English winters. I usually did and appreciated it very much! Children just have a hard time dealing with meanness from other kids and those were downright spiteful. I often wonder if their behaviors came back to haunt them. I vividly remember defending gypsy children against the bullies in our two-room rural school.
I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry, though I’ve never been starving. I remember what it felt like to have no food to give to our cat for days at a time and having to let him steal food out of the neighbor’s woodshed where it was placed to feed their outdoor kitty. I know what it feels like to be triaged and at the bottom of the list when it comes to other forms of needed help. There is so much suffering and distress in this world and so many opportunities the rest of us have to quietly do something to help ease the misery.
Because of my family background I can hardly bear to see or read about the suffering in the world. It’s senseless and caused by the power-hungry, by bumbling leaders, and by dictators of all stripes. Even the results of natural disasters, including famine, can be overcome in very reasonable amounts of time when leaders of nations, government entities, and various for-profit and non-profit organizations have their heads on straight. They need to look outward instead of inward, forward and up, not backwards and down to overcome the massive obstacles.
A true world vision includes letting convoys of food and medical supplies reach those in desperate need instead of letting corrupt and ignorant military personnel and so-called peace officers steal it all. If leaders of nations really believed in the God of the Universe, they would not do the things they do, but horrors in the name of so-called religion still happen. Even before this generation of cowardly terrorist attacks on the innocent, fanatics created a hellish world for true believers.
The Florence Nightingales in the world give up a life of ease to help the sick, wounded and afflicted. They labor in inner cities, visit jails, walk streets to lift up the homeless, and go on incredibly dangerous missions to rescue abducted children. They climb down into aqueducts and crawl in sewers to find abused animals.
There’s something about “been there, done that” that shapes your outlook toward those who haven’t had many opportunities and makes you far more likely to feel their pain and try to help, rather than just grimace at the latest news. Many of us cannot help physically but even a small financial donation can keep rescuers going and rebuild their spirits when their chosen path begins to overwhelm them. When we can give more and do so, it means the world to worthy charities.
My less-privileged background has greatly affected the way I see the world. I’m glad my ancestors included hardworking railwaymen, humble shepherds and farmers, and those who worked in mills and coal mines, instead of many of the moneyed lines of nobility and royalty.