Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Everything Rolls Downhill

I was thinking today of a post-graduate interaction with my college dean. Apologies in advance that I forget the main topic or the advice rendered, but maybe five years after graduation my college dean met with me to discuss my life. After our meeting, he sent me a letter with some more advice as well as some contacts he had made on my behalf. Again, I forget the exact circumstances, but I remember responding with a question: how does one repay the extension of assistance?

He replied that there was no need, that the assistance should extend downward, that I was..."obliged" might be overstatement but let us say "expected" to, in turn, help someone else further down the chain, in an appropriate way at an appropriate time.

You see: that's how it works, dear people.

In a local context (and the trigger for the memory): now and again my in-laws help with our life (because they can, because it pleases them, because we house their grandchildren, because we are family, your reason here). In some ways, such help is near awkward (I earn a good living and I do not let others know of my finances one way or the other), but of course, we are grateful. And their help is consonant with my own goals/beliefs. I am here to guide, instruct, counsel, aid, and defend my offspring. I fully intend to do so until Death. Indeed, their needs come before my own in many important ways.

Please do not construe the following in anything other than cultural terms:

Apparently, when veteran aid workers were re-deployed from Africa to Bosnia (Remember Bosnia? *I* do.), they were confused by what they saw. They had shown up with all sorts of supplies, medicines, and foods for the children, but the children looked, for the most part, well-fed and reasonably healthy and happy. Their parents, on the other hand, often suffered malnutrition; why? Because they put their children first, foregoing their own food for the benefit of their children (you know, their future and all...).

That is how it is supposed to be. D-rwin would have approved.

We must find the grace to accept help from those ahead of us, and remember to, in turn, help those behind us. That is how it is supposed to be, and it may require a reduction in personal consumption to effect meaningful exchange.

I am surprised at how often I need to re-learn this lesson, first inculcated by my dean (Thanks, Dean F!). Oh, and thanks to my in-laws.

Have I mentioned how lucky, how gosh-darn lucky I am? Really, I am. And grateful for each day, mindful to approach each day with wonder.

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