By Debra Z. Roth
What does it mean to be humane? In this maddened world, is it enough to vote to enact and strengthen laws that help us reach and protect the American right to happiness or should we also dedicate at least a few hours a week to help solve problems and bring good to fruition? If you raise a child, is that a sufficient gift to the future or should you and your child volunteer to participate in a charitable project or two each month? If you aren’t a parent, should you assist a parent and take on charities that need funding and grit? If you can’t afford charitable donations, should you dedicate, at least, to giving a dollar a day? Can you commit to at least one act of kindness per day?
Is giving, truly, receiving?
We can’t always make sense out of the web of madness, but we can implant a system and, step by step, we can see through the maze.
I took an oath last night to uphold the Constitution as part of my responsibilities for a Falls Church City advisory council and I wondered as I mouthed each word: Whose interpretation of the Constitution? Yet I knew what they needed to know: Be law-abiding which equates to being ethical which equates to being American.
As I returned to my seat in our City Hall where portraits of our nation’s leaders from its founding years stare down, I wondered if they could see us if they’d wonder if the world had gone berserk. At least they would remark about the speed of communicating and learning via little gadgets we stare at while we attempt to listen to people talk. And they’d be thrilled after the initial shock, in learning we elected a black-skinned person as president and might soon elect a woman for that role.
I know they’d be proud to see how we fiercely protect the 1st Amendment as evidenced by protests streaming across the country, many peaceful amidst the mayhem.
I was asked then if I’d write about why volunteering for the City is important, why the committee I was appointed to mattered, and what this meant to me. This was after I shook my head for the nth time that day, that week, the month, over shootings, barbarism, hatred, and fear.
I stopped crying because, like most of us, it’s more practical to go numb. But I cried, thank goodness, because, like most of us, I am determined to remain humane. I would rather be cut down than let a person be destroyed because he or she is of an unappreciated race, religion, country, sexual or gender preference, old age, or is financially challenged, or of different intelligence or physical capabilities.
And as a member of the Falls Church City Human Services Advisory Council, I will use what I’ve got to help others and improve and enhance our Little City. On a basic level, that means affordable housing and other services toward formulating a holistic lifestyle with opportunities for our residents, workers, and visitors. To many, that means securing a level of equality.
To some it means money spent for others’ use. They see these tax dollars as charity. Yet, it is these “others” who widen our lens and expand our views – they lead us into new journeys, exciting experiences, cultural adventures through food, gardens, music, philosophies, and perspectives, and toward uncharted dreams, merging patchworks of people, fabricating new creations, seeing and realizing prospects, such as through business. These ventures give back to us. These forays enlarge and swell our hearts and soon we understand that these other people aren’t others: They are ourselves.
You and I: We are unique, similar, freaky to some, cherished by many, reaching out, connecting amid the madness.
So I jumped on the Metro this morning and I again saw an unwelcoming person I thought about maneuvering by, a person who appeared to be male, teenage, his skin dark, partly hidden under a hoody, slumped over. I was a bit annoyed because he was leaning over the seat next to him, taking two places and I wanted to thump down. I started to pine to go back home to my sensible Little City where many know my name and hug me even when I act foolishly. I wanted to lie at the pool. I had been yearning to complete a painting that I think someone else will like. I needed to study for my next Advisory Council meeting. No one hovered near this person. I sat down. And he sat up and smiled.
Debra Z. Roth is a City of Falls Church resident and an activist who works professionally promoting social justice and economic opportunities.