Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Point of Light

Time to sharpen your fangs folks. My hide has been thickened in preparation for today's column.
I love our people, we are a giving, caring and sacrificing bunch. But boy....We like our money and its accoutrements. We place such a high value on money that we use it as a filter for the worth of people, positions, plaudits and power. In fact we even base major, life changing decisions on how financially sound it will be, often without any regard for the moral, personal, or humanitarian issues involved.
We have been fortunate to see the giving side of our people. Until now, I was under the impression that we were, by far, the most giving nation in the World.
Shylock was famous for wandering the docks in Venice crying out, "My Ducats, My Daughter...My Ducats, My Daughter". He couldn't decide whether he was more distressed over the loss of a small part of his fortune, or the fact that it had accompanied fair Jessica (his only child) out of his life and into estrangement.
Not much is different on this side of the World. There are those that got...and those that "got naught".
Here's the pinch: Our limited experience in Istanbul has given us the impression that those in need are given much in the way of respect and care. This is not universal in its application, but the interaction we have seen between the needy and the "need nots" has touched us. The poor gather on the steps to the Mosque, where the faithful on their way to prayers, must pass by them. It is rare to see them ignored or passed by without an offering or some act of kindness.
Points of Light in Istanbul

I have seen more "simple giving" to the needy, here in Istanbul, than anywhere else. My prior experience showed me that others wanted to specify "how" someone in need would use whatever might be "gifted" their way. When we do it that way, we not only become the giver but also the administrator of the funds. It boils down to financial manipulation...Charity in the cloak of control. Real gifts are given without regret or reproof. I guess that seems pretty foolish to give so flagrantly...huh? Or is it?
I have a close friend that is elderly. He is famous in Cappadocia for his generosity. His acquaintances tell me that for 50 years he has given to those who were in the point that he has now given his fortune, quite completely, away. Today he helps his son in a rug shop in Istanbul to make ends meet. He is a devout Muslim who is honorable and trustworthy...a man of high esteem in his circle. He is my close personal friend and I look up to him.
Are you still reading? Here's the point: He doesn't regret helping those who may have misused the gift he gave them. In fact, given his current circumstances, he said he would give it away, all over again, if given the chance. He told me it is not his job to differentiate the poor's needs versus their wants...That job belongs only to Allah. Ahmet explained that his job was only to give when he saw a need...not investigate it and weigh it to determine its worth.
Who would have expected to find a heart so generous and self deprecating in this volatile region? See!...Getting out into the fresh air does me good after all. Take a deep breath and think before you respond. The light that is making you squint comes from the smile of an old Cappadocian man who knows the joy of unconditional giving.


Anonymous said...

Ahmet is a very kindhearted man. A lot of us could learn a lot from this man!

So many times, we have been told to give to the poor only if we know that they are going to use it properly. It sounds very responsible, but after reading your post, I have been made to think things over and maybe reconsider what I have been taught for years. When we hear something often enough, we just consider it to be right.

Thinking, thinking, thinking...


Anonymous said...

I've learned the same thing about so many Turkish people when I've been in Istanbul. And it makes me wish that the giving attitude were more a part of the American culture. That's also why I love going back to Turkey--which I will be next Wednesday, if only for two weeks. Perhaps we'll run into each other at one of the bazaars. :-)

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World