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Decay • Posted: Apr 02, 2013 05:47:18Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

A friend received a letter recently, from a person she'd met a year ago in a hospice. The two had become friends while each endured the loss of a loved one. Now a year later, that same person was presenting a sad story of depression, continued grief, poverty, and abuse by a third party. She was asking for financial help. In other words, a hand out.

Assuming one is tempted by compassion, what actually would a substantive, helpful, and healthful response be?

On a personal level, we are dealing with feelings here: discomfort, pain, fear, inadequacy, perhaps a bit of courage, perhaps a bit of con. On a broader scale, we are looking at the gulf between "haves" and "have nots", between those who inhabit a viable niche within society and those who do not. And on a global scale, we are looking at the relationship between a developed world and the developing world.

Those who have had dealings with alcoholics or drug addicts know the term "co-dependent". It's a symbiotic trap that well-intentioned people fall into because they trust their emotions over their ability to reason from facts. They want to not feel guilty or in pain. So they "give in" to the demands of the addicted person and in so doing perpetuate the addiction. It's the same situation wealthy Germans find themselves in relative to the failing economies of Greece and Cyprus. It's the same predicament the World Bank faces relative to Haiti. It's also the same spot Republicans and Tea Partiers feel themselves in relative to taxes and the burgeoning national debt.

So, if "giving in" is neither healthful nor, in the long run, a helpful response, what is? What kind of response will actually help stem the decay, the misery, the pain without poisoning parts of ourselves and our societies that are, by comparison, more healthy and thriving?

What I ended up telling my friend, who asked those same questions, was: ask what that other person is doing trying to help themselves. If the answer turns out to be nothing, back away, you can't help. But, if that answer is actually something, something that has a real chance of making a significant difference, then choosing to in some way help with those efforts could, in the long run, prove a net gain for both of you. In fact, for all of us. As in medicine, decay anywhere in the system weakens the entire system. Stemming it revives the whole system. It all adds up. No action is insignificant.

May compassionate efforts toward your own health and vitality, or toward assisting someone in need of help, forever contribute toward health and vitality for all of us.

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013