A noble woman in the novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky says, and I paraphrase: “I love humanity. What I can’t stand is the individual.” When I first read those lines, I remember how hard I laughed. Being young and with little experience, the character’s distinction made no sense to me. Age has opened my eyes. Not only do I understand the character’s sentiment, I sometimes share it.
I’m not alone. A man on my Facebook page often writes about the importance of being a “Real Human Being” (RHB). A real human being is someone who operates on the principal of doing unto others. But recently, he confessed, he’d found himself shouting at a driver who’d nearly embroiled him in a traffic accident. His anger had come upon him suddenly and he’d lost control. Later, he apologized on his web page for having let himself down. If he’d been seated across the table from me, I’d have given his arm a pat and told him in my world justified anger is part of being a RHB.
I’m glad my thoughts were charitable because when I walked into my garden this morning I, too, wanted to shout. During the night, a stranger had taken refuge under the trees then left behind a quantity of trash. I have no quarrel with the visit. That he or she had stretched out on the wooden bench I’d provided delights me. But why should this person give thanks for the accommodation by leaving debris behind? I call that a sorry thanks.
Like my friend on Facebook, I strive to be a real human being. Helping humanity is a concept upon which most of us can agree. But individuals can let us down. Sometimes it’s easier to contemplate random acts of kindness than to perform them.
(Courtesy of newyork.cbslocal.com)