On giving and receiving – a tale of the Madman Rodney D. Coates
Standing along the corner of the wall, trying hard not to be seen, the Beggar could not help but be drawn into the conversation. He, too, had been dismissed, ignored, and all too often forgotten about -at least for most of the time. There were, of course, the ceremonial days where the village would parade its poor to their appointed places. On these days, unlike most others, the rich and famous would seemingly mock the poor and infamous by serving up grand meals, lavishing the poor with discarded (and often unwanted) coats and other fashionable items which does little to warm either the body or the soul. He had long lost his name, simply known as the Beggar when his presence was even recognized. So, as the Beggar listened and upon hearing a pause -spoke: “Mustafa, whom some call the mad, long have we walked through the alleys of this town. Long have we loitered on the outskirts of their consciences, lingering along the paths of their forgetfulness, and walking on the deserts of their souls. How strange that we are always present yet never seen, always being but never living, and always speaking but always silent. Songs sang in the abyss of loneliness, life’s unfolding in a sea of nothingness, and strangers on the edge of another’s thoughtlessness” Pained that he would speak, many in crowd began to murmur. But without hesitation, the Beggar continued: “My dear friend, please speak to me of giving and receiving.” Mustafa, eying his old friend and companion, considered long his request and began to speak. “Why are there poor among us? Long ago, one of your Holy Men spoke ” ‘The poor will be with us always’. Is this the result of God’s inability to provide or Humanity’s inability to share?” Again a pause, as those in the audience shuffled their feet. “Why is it that we continually shirk our responsibilities while cherry-picking the holy scripts to find justification for our neglect, absolution for our selfishness, and refuse to atone for our systematic attempts that deny our own culpability in systemic failures? It is not that you are unsympathetic, in fact it is your very sympathy which is the problem. Rather than sympathy, it is empathy -your willingness to see things, experience events, live through the heart of another -only then will you be able to grasp how and why your attempts at giving merely mock those who are receiving. Consider the following – ‘In a town not too far from here, a rich nobleman saw poverty and decided that he would spend all his wealth on making their lives better. He bought rich food and wine, fine clothes and houses, extravagant carriages drawn by the most noble of horses. To what avail, within time he was then reduced to poverty, and the food and wine had soured, the fine clothes and homes in ruins, and the extravagant carriages and animals all faltered through lack of care. A noble act, but misinformed, misguided, and misdirected.’ “What should have he done you ask? Is it not said, give one a fish and they eat for a day, teach one to fish and they will eat for life. Why is it that you burden the needy with obligation and fail to provide with the sustenance of life. Often we confuse enabling with equipping. And often, we enable the poor to continue to be poor, while we refrain from equipping them so that poverty is no longer an option. Is it that we truly want to keep the poor with us always, or is it that we enjoy playing god -during these special ceremonies to the victims of our necessity to do for others what they can do for themselves. Shall we continue this madness, and I am called a Madman -or shall we create systems which sustains the whole person. How simple it would be to create systems which educated for success, prepared for accomplishment, and refused to take failure as an excuse.” “But” some murmured, “Who will bear the cost of such a system.” “Yes, who will bear the cost? Who bears the cost for the permanence of poverty, ignorance, and disease? Shall we continue to do the same thing, and each generation wonder why so many fail, why so many are without and why so many require our ‘aid’? What is it that we gain from such systemic failure? Perhaps, if we truly cared we would allow all the dignity of work, the dignity of success, and the dignity of self-sufficiency. Perhaps, we may learn one that true giving would result in such a system where all benefit. Perhaps, one day we will all walk out of the house of the mad, and enter the house of humanity. Or perhaps I will continue to be called -the Madman.