Sunday, 12 August 2018

Finding Freely-Given Generosity

Dear Reader,

I am increasingly aware that all over the world there has been, sadly, a falling-away of family bonding and unsought-for generosity. Even in the East where their extended families and care towards them was famous, there has been a greater tendency for elders to be placed in care homes in recent decades.

I have become more aware of this as my wife comes from the East and her generation still retain their respect for older members of their extended family. But there is the tendency now for the modern generation to be not so concerned and live more for themselves.

I do not blame the modern generation for everything: far from it. It would appear to me that the seeds for this lack of concern were planted earlier when people started to be more widely educated in the western system, which tends to play more towards looking out for oneself and sticking to straight lines of thinking. That education tended to make many educationally highly-qualified people look down on their less well-endowed relatives.

In this, as I posted last week, there seems now, thankfully, to be a belated but slow change in thinking, more given towards traditional eastern modes of thought. And this approach is vital as we also seek to find ways to towards a more sustainable way of living on a planet of finite resources. We have to re-learn how to love our environment as well as other people.

But the circumstances which we have created, and the need to re-think, has cast my mind back to the late 1950s and the 1960s when life was quite different and people tended to be much more inclusive towards one another. For me, it also meant a time of adventure and the outdoors in those pre-PC days. From Snowdon to Derbyshire, from Birmingham to Stratford, from Dover to Milan, I covered quite a few blades of grass at a time when most ordinary people stuck to their holidays by the English seaside or were beginning to jet away to sunshine beaches.

As time went on I launched myself into hitch-hiking on the continent, mainly through France and North Italy, but also Belgium and Switzerland. Although my hitch-hiking experience was relatively short-lived, I have to say that those trips over three or four years (including one that lasted several months) had a profound effect on my attitude towards life, aided by many wonderful encounters with French (and Italian) nationals who were so generous towards us, I found it quite astonishing. I wonder if the same experiences would be possible now, in this more calculating age?

Probably the most remembered is when a companion and I were given a lift by a van driver and his mate in mid-France. We were stowed in the back of the van (without windows) and went some distance before noticing that we had left the main road and were travelling down a rough road surface. This didn't seem right - particularly as we continued in this fashion for some time! We began to think we were being kidnapped! Eventually, the van stopped. We were let out of the back and were then greeted by the driver's family and neighbours in their remote hilltop village. We were then treated to their local vin and hosted for some time before we continued on our journey! Their hospitality was quite extraordinary; they were just so excited to meet English people!

Another occasion saw me travelling with a van driver over the 200 miles from Marseilles to Lyon, a trip that took 3 or 4 hours. He was so grateful for my company and conversation on the journey that he insisted on giving me money for my lunch when we got there.

Many years later, in the 1980s and 1990s, I experienced the generosity of ordinary people in Malacca, Malaysia, where simple people living on very little would host us in their homes.

The nature of people - if we would remember ourselves correctly - is to be generous, so to be anything different is really contrary to who we are and invariably leads to difficulties.

So let us re-think about who we are and learn to know our (real) selves, as men of wisdom advised long ago, and, as Jesus said, the true way of life rests on two laws. The first is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind. The second is to love thy neighbour as thyself. To forget these two laws (principles) is tantamount to forgetting about how to be human beings.

Thank you for reading this.