You want to give... But giving has to be done in a certain way.
We had some children stuff. I had actually saved Lara's nice clothes and shoes as a memory, but in the end, I decided not to keep them. Just a few. Who knows what's going to happen in two decades? If she will have children, if we can store them safely. Before going to Madagascar we wrote to Jean-Claude to ask if there was an institution we could donate children's clothes and toys. He said it's better to give them firsthand, where people in need get them.
In a way, I find that better as well. I know from experience that when you donate things to an institution they are at high risk of either:
a) being appropriated for the benefit of the people running the place,
b) being left rotting in a corner.
We had given some stationery to an orphanage in Ghana, the man in charge just kept most for his children. The rest of the books and pens were stashed in a corner, he didn't distribute, let them rot in the humid air. To his credit, the children in Africa do not really know how to appreciate things and look after them. Not that children in Europe or in other places do know it! They generally have too much and could not care less if some things went missing. In Africa, it's a different kind though. They do not value most of this stuff that they have no use for. Perhaps it's because children don't have a concept of possession yet. Or at least for things they don't especially care about, because they hang on to precious things. Actually they make a fuss if anybody else attempts to touch something they are not even using. When another wants something, all of a sudden, it becomes precious. Children scatter things around. If things get lost, they cry so hard so as to stress the parents. Then they forget. They move on to whatever is at hand. If it's found, it only takes a short time until it's tossed aside again.
Anyway... In the end, we ended up stopping on the road and giving the things in people's/children's hands.
I knew we shouldn't be doing it that way. Naturally, there are always many children surrounding us. So what happens?
We stopped at a rest place where other cars were stopping as well. Children ask for empty plastic water bottles. They serve for so many things, putting oil, gas, drinks... Or they make cars out of them. Toy cars. Anyway, we had given out everything, had only one pair of socks left to give out. Lara took them out, passed them to Jean-Claude, who passed them out from the window. These two 13-15 year-old boys started tugging the socks. And they started a real fight over it. Seriously hitting each other. I don't know if I can describe how horrible it felt, just try to imagine: You give something to someone, you want to help, then you witness them fighting over that, hurting each other. You ask yourself whether it would have been better if you didn't give, if they didn't have anything in the first place.
Of course that's not true. The thing is, people need to have their minimum needs met. As if you don't see the same ugly fight between the rich who have more than enough!
“Over something which neither of them has use for,” I said to Carlo when we were discussing what had happened.
“They trade amongst themselves,” Carlo said.
Could be... Whatever the case, it is heavy to see that there are people in the world fighting over an old pair of baby socks. No wonder about the fights going on over things at bigger stakes. Some companies do it in a politer, more civilized fashion; it's done at a subtler level. But the fight, is as ugly for the ones who can see it.
We had run out of any material thing to give away. The kids on the riverside asked for biscuits. I had a couple of biscuits that I had taken from Rome, for us to munch on on the road. Once again, feeling obliged to give something, I took the bag out to give to the children. Again, of course there is not enough to go around. I suppose in general it's best not to take out anything unless you have enough for everybody. Anyway... I was going to distribute one by one. First, I randomly picked two girls to give to. A boy grabbed one from my hand before the girl could get it. Then one of the girls tried to get it from the boy. The boy, trying hard not to give it to her, squeezed his hand tighter. As he squeezed, the biscuit all fell in crumbles. The other biscuit had the same fate as the children were fighting over it.
Would it have been any different if there was enough for every kid? Perhaps. Perhaps then I could line up the kids and hand each a biscuit, one by one. Still, that wouldn't have guaranteed that there wouldn't be one who tried to grab a second from another.
This actually sums up what I learnt out of life in my almost half a century on this earth. There is a cake, or the image of a cake, and we all try to grab what we can. Some, like me, are weary of this greedy game and do not wish to get involved. (Of course lucky too to have enough.) Others like playing the game, their personality type fits perfectly for this kind of competition. Still others feel compelled to join the game as a matter of livelihood. There are not many options to live a decent life in our world. If people who are more than willing to work cannot get jobs, they may feel obliged to resort to other methods.
This may not absolve them, but it certainly is an explanation that calls for our understanding.
This time there was an elder man around the group of children. He had a stick in his hand. Anytime anybody tried to reach out and grab something as we were pulling it out of the bag, or anytime someone tried to get something given to another, the man would hit lightly on the children.
I'm not sure if I like/d this method. However, it seems to be the one that works. Do we need to have an authoritarian figure distributing the resources of the world like that to each one of us?
Perhaps that could be the only solution!
Or of course, we just keep playing this "the powerful or the rapacious grabs, the others starve or just get by" game.
I don't know about you, I don't like either. We'd better set up a long spoons game somehow, where the greedy cannot eat and have to learn to share if they want to survive. The continuation of our race might depend on that, because the way things are going, we will keep on plucking each other's eyes, or at least trying to.