Givers and Takers

It seems to me that people are largely divided into two groups – the givers and the takers. On walking into a new job, a classroom or a party, there will always be those who are thinking “What can I get out of this?” and those who are thinking “What can I give to this situation?” You probably know which you are. Your friends most certainly do.

I have a suspicion that over the next months, President Obama will be aiming to inspire the givers and challenge the takers. He will be hoping to work out in practice these wise words of John F Kennedy,
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

We can of course widen that sentiment out to include us all. Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for the world. Do we take as much as we want of the world’s energy resources, or do we consider how to conserve energy for future generations? Do we choose the food and drink that we buy purely for our own pleasure, or do we consider the cost to the producer on the other side of the world? Do we use the household products that promise the most or do we consider the harmful effect of what is going down our drains?

Jamal was a giver. In the film “Slumdog Millionnaire“, the main character had nothing in worldly terms and yet he gave of himself through his honesty, loyalty, faithfulness and love. So why did I come out of ’the feelgood film of the decade’ feeling so distressed? Simply because it was a happy ending for one man. One man. What about all the others?

I sat in bed resisting the urge to pack up, go out to India and ’do my bit’, which I recall feeling when I watched “Ghandi” as a fifteen year old. My need for ’instant gratification’ (the desire to do something immediately to take the distress away – mine or theirs or both?) was overwhelming. By nature, I am useless at playing the long game. But there is good work already going on in the poorest communities in India that I can actively support. Projects that encourage slum dwellers like Jamal to use their skills to earn a living wage. A good example is TARA projects, which were established over 35 years ago to help poor craftspeople in Delhi find a market and receive a fair price for their goods.

What better time to give a gift in a fairly traded newspaper gift bag from India? What a great opportunity to give a friend who was touched by the film a Circle of Friends nightlight from TARA projects!

We can all help to spread the feelgood factor further. So what can we do for the world today?

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