At this time of year, when we think so much about giving to others, we sometimes seem to forget, I think, that giving is not always to be measured in boxes wrapped or finery worn. It is really, I believe, a time when we should all be thankful for what we have and try to show that by sharing with others. Thanksgiving to the New Year seems to have become more abut me, than about you. That’s sad.
One of the big issues of this year we are completing has been health care. Can there be anyone in America, if not the whole world, who hasn’t at least heard about our national discussion (oh, if it were only discussion) about who pays for what, and how much, just to keep body (if not soul) together when illness strikes or accidents befall or age makes its final call. The discussions, the shouting, the insults, the painful hopefulness that something can be done to help this nation rise from 50th in the world in health care back to the top spot it once enjoyed seem tied to rigid posts of "all about me" thinking. We still can’t figure out how to do what the other 49 nations above us have already learned.
Of course there are those who say what we have is fine, that making healthcare affordable is not something we have any right or reason to expect, that people should be responsible for themselves, and don’t need any intervention from the government. The anti-government sentiment, while a part of our most basic concepts, was not, I don’t think, intended to bring or encourage or extend suffering to others. One wonders how we got to this point in our national psyche that we, or at least some of us, think it is okay to consider some of our fellow citizens as disposable. Because that’s what the resistance to fixing the health care system is all about.
I am reminded of a sentiment expressed by one Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), an early advocate of and researcher in the science of evolution. He worked in the period when it was still but a theory, when the science had not caught up with the facts, but he had some very interesting thoughts about what it all meant. Among other things, he was a staunch advocate of withholding help from those who could not hep themselves. It was, he believed, not natural (in terms of evolution) to do things that would keep in the gene pool, people unable to work or provide for themselves, and that by denying help, they would be eliminated from the human family, leaving an ever better, stronger, more likely to survive population.
Time and scientific study has proven Spencer a man of narrow vision if nothing else. As science probes and discovers more and more about plants and animals and even atoms, it becomes more a fact than a speculation that other life forms, other mammals and other species perform altruistic acts, that even some plants have evolved to protect other plants.
Much of what Spencer, and Darwin and others arrived at by what are now primitive means, has now been demonstrated by true scientific investigation. We learn new things nearly every minute, it seems to me. And that is good, it is evolutionary, it is why we will be able to overcome the new threats of disease and perhaps, even those posed by people who disagree over fundamental things like freedom.
The question that I would like to answer in this season of the year, the season in which we talk about giving being better than receiving, that sharing is a way of loving beyond the people we know, is this: if Spencer had been able to make his point of view the standard of the world, what kind of world would we have this year, this season, this day.
And one more: would you and your family be here to share it?
Greetings of the season.