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lundi 1 juin 2009

ALTRUISM Give of yourself till it hurts!

True Giving
Altruism is giving that which you cannot afford, said my father, once upon a time.

I was with an UmonHon Indian friend of mine, at the parking lot of a shopping mall. She introduced me to a huge Indian young man. This is my cousin, and then the usual pleasantries.
H e was with an ordinary looking white young woman, with a baby of two years in her arms, and the Indian was carrying an infant of about six months of age.  Both children looked well fed and content, very white, and happy. A perfect picture?
A cameo of life in America, a young couple, one Indian and one white, a family picture, cleanly dressed, nothing elegant, but neat.
But there is more to this scene that meets the eye. Even though the couple have been together for nearly one year, neither of the children are his. He had met her while she was three months pregnant, had been her companion through her pregnancy, lives with her and looks after her and the two children. In fact, it is correct to say she lives with him, since  he is the one who works and supports them.
What is the origin of such generosity among the Indians, that they would sacrifice themselves so that others can have and can live?
Nature and Nurture, I would guess. People who are used to live in small tribal communities, all over the world, know the importance of being there for others, in times of stress and sadness, to put themselves out so that the society is evened out with no major ripples in the daily activities of the tribe.
In this case, nurture also plays an important role, a role model in his mother.
His mother is employed as a cleaner at a hotel, earning the minimum wage of $6.25 per hour, so that one days work for her will bring her $50, with no added social benefits, such as Health Insurance.
She befriended a young white single mother, who was alcohol dependent, and occasionally helped her out babysitting while the mother looked for work. The child bonded with her, and as the single mother was alcoholic and unemployed the child would spend more and more time with this lady and of course she had barely enough money to support herself, after paying the rent and other expenses. Remember $50 per day is below the Poverty Level in the USA. She was quite happy to take on this additional responsibility.  While the mother attended the clinics for her alcohol addiction, where do you think the child spent its time? Of course with this Indian Lady!
This is a very Indian characteristic. Giving till it hurts, like they say.  
You see examples of this in the Indian reservation all the time, people giving their last dollars when a ceremony is being held, sharing what they have, taking food home to the elders so that they don’t go hungry. 
Do the European Americans understand this?
The White Teachers at the Reservation School always complain that the Indian parents are not interested in the education of their children, unlike the White parents in White schools, where the parents are actively volunteering for the school activities. What these teachers don’t realize is brought to me one day when an Indian Elder said to me:
Our entire life is one of Voluntarism..
This is what constitute the major part of the social life of the Indians in these current times.  Among Indians, doing chores for others, giving lifts to people without cars, taking relatives to nearby towns to get food and other goods, baby sit while parents are away , working or playing.
What you do for others is the measure of you as a person, said an Elder to me. It resonates well with me, prepared for the solidarity of the social life in Cuba and humanitarian efforts in Cambodia, Myanmar and Jamaica among others..

Of the many gifts I have received in my life, one of the more significant one is the chance to work with Indians, as the Native Americans are known to the outside world