From fake charities to real connections

I was out for a pre-concert drink with a buddy when a woman approached us asking for money. She said she was raising funds for women who had had their teeth kicked in. The woman looked like she’s seen better days and the home-made jar she was using to collect donations didn’t exactly scream, “legitimate.” If I was a betting woman, I’d say that this “charity” was a sham.

As the woman walked away, I tried to imagine myself in an alternate reality where I had come across hard times and decided that I would make some money by pretending to raise money for a charity. Hmmm. What charity would it be???? Uncomfortable question, hey?!? So much so for me, that I couldn’t come up with an answer. But I did think of this: the idea of a charity for women who have had their teeth kicked in is probably not something I would have come up with. Why? Well, it’s out of my frame of reference or scope of awareness. This subgroup of the population would not have crossed my mind. But they did cross this woman’s mind. Be it through eyewitness accounts, indirect or first-hand experience (as her own teeth suggest) this exists within the woman’s reality… … … shit.

Now lets take this thought a little further. Imagine having your teeth kicked in. The powerlessness. The mercilessness and cruelty of someone else. The pain. Looking up and seeing a foot coming at your mouth and there’s nothing you can do. As I write this I’m laying on the ground listening to the birds chirping and glancing up occasionally to try and catch a glimpse of a bumblebee coming to and fro, while somewhere, at this moment, someone’s reality is very much the opposite.

Alright, so what’s my point? Bad things happen to people and that’s that. We can’t help everyone and that’s just life. I suppose. But here’s a thought. Even though you are you and I am me, something that unites us with everyone around us is the shared capacity to feel pain, pleasure, hunger, sadness, joy, etc. And while you are not “that other person,” if you pause for a second, you can most likely very closely imagine what they are feeling. What they are experiencing is exactly what you would be experiencing if the tables were turned. Their pain receptors are no different from yours.

Yes, we can’t necessarily make the world’s current pain go away. But we can greatly reduce how much new pain manifests into the world by keeping this idea of connection in our consciousness and using it to help us remember to try to avoid actions that inflict pain onto others. There are many refreshingly simple ways to make a dent in the world. To make a dent in how we relate to and treat each other. And they all begin with small shifts in consciousness and by realizing that we are all connected in many more ways than we think.

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