is our ability to care for one another, certainly those close to us, but even those who might be strangers.
I write these words as a result of my experience today.
As many of you know, I put up a GoFundMe because of the combination of medical bills and the fact that a forthcoming medical procedure for me will mean that I will probably not have employment before the end of the calendar year, and my wife will lose some income (she will be out of leave) to help care for me, during and immediately after that procedure.
I posted about it at Facebook and Twitter, as well as a post here.
I exceeded my target in a bit more than 6 hours, and despite my telling people I did not need more, the money kept coming in. I have now exceeded the target by more than 20%.
It was heartwarming to get a number of contributions, along with kind messages, from a number of students, including several I taught this past year.
It was heart warming to get the kind remarks from many in this community who told me how much my writing meant to them.
One of the largest contributions was from a woman whose name I do not in anyway recognize — not from here, from Facebook, from twitter — who apparently responded as a result of being a Facebook Friend of a Friend.
As promised, I am paying forward what is beyond what I asked for, and have already made arrangements.
But that is not why I am writing this post.
This post is about this election.
We have a stark contrast between the candidates, a starkness that is also reflected in the difference between the parties they represent.
One candidate is a sociopathic narcissist who only sees the world in terms of how it benefits him, who may never have really known what it is to be truly loved or to truly love another. He represents a party that rationalizes selfishness, in which too many seek to win elections not by appealing to the largest number of voters but by suppressing the votes of those who would not support them. It is a party that at this point seeks to justify dividing us, to excluding many from their vision of our society.
The other is a candidate whose life has been one of service to others from her adolescence, who takes the time to get to know ordinary folks, to listen to them, to learn them, to affirm them. She knows how to give love, and from many whose lives she has touched she is loved in return.
She represents a party that seeks to bring us all together, if we are willing. It is party that wants to expand who votes, who participates. Despite the human failings of many of its leaders — a group the candidate herself would say includes her — it seeks to affirm, to grow a society that enables all who are willing to try to flourish, and for those that struggle to provide a handup, a safety net, the comfort of not being ignored, but recognized and affirmed.
Today, with reluctance, because I believe in responsibility, I opened up and admitted I needed assistance. I was affirmed, and the words mean as much as the financial assistance.
That is why I am part of this community.
It reminds me of why I chose to become a teacher.
It is why I am a Democrat.
It is also why I write, just as it is why I taught — to pay forward what has been given to me over my 7 decades of life.
I am a difficult person.
I am actually very shy, quite insecure, full of self-doubt. I am often way too impatient, especially with myself.
I was fortunate to live in a loving albeit dysfunctional family.
Along the way teachers and professors cared enough to reach out, to challenge but to support me.
In teaching and in writing I am challenged, and in that I am forced to grow, to become more than I would otherwise be were I to withdraw into myself and my own needs.
I have been blessed by more than 4 decades together with a remarkable woman, who was still a teenager when we began our relationship. We have grown together, and we continue to grow not only because of the love we share, but because of the love and caring we experience with others.
I have often quoted words of the late Hubert H Humphrey because they speak to me of what I believe should be a key purpose of our politics:
“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Americans can be very generous. I do not think that government’s role is to replace that individual and through our various charitable organizations the generosity and caring offered outside the government. But too often there are needs beyond the capacity of individuals and groups, which need the power of our collective action through our government. Further, our government should be helping shape our society to try to ameliorate the difficulties that could otherwise exist — for those like children, elderly, and in the shadows as identified by Humphrey. It should help remind us that we are interconnected, we have a responsibility for the basic well-being of one another.
It is interesting to see that often those who struggle themselves are among the first to be generous to others in need. I experienced that today, and found myself challenge to be more generous — not merely with material goods, although that is important. A simple act, a gracious word, a smile, taking the time to affirm the presence of another — all of this is part of my moral test as a human being.
I cannot expect my government to be moral if my politics are not moral, and my politics will not be moral if I myself am selfish.
Today I overcame my reluctance and asked for help, and was recognized and affirmed.
I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.
I feel challenged to pass it on.
Part of how I will pass it on is to take the extra to give it to others in need, so that I might affirm them.
But another part of how I pay it forward is by writing this post.
I hope you don’t mind.