Some of the most generous people I know have no money.
This often said phrase was how an Aboriginal elder started a video he’s in. He was referring to life without money – life before money would be more accurate perhaps. He explained that his language has no words for “please” and “thank you” because, “it is what is expected of us. We share and we give what we have”. Other languages lack these words too – presumably because collective well-being and dignity are a baseline way of life for the societies that speak them – or at least it used to be the case.
For them, “please” and “thank you” is akin to begging.
Having no money leads to a lifestyle very different to what we have in the UAE. In Greece, the fallout from its debt crisis has meant that money is in short supply – and so barter is a way to provide for a growing number of people. This is why sites like tradenow.gr and mermix.gr are thriving – it’s how a butcher got new tyres for his lorry in exchange for meat, and burglar alarms are given for paper and advertising. But not everyone wants something in return.
Greece is becoming home – albeit temporarily for most – to a surging number of refugees who left everything behind – 158,456 arrived by sea between the start of the year and August 14, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, and people have been flocking to help. Greeks – often with little of their own. The web is full of their stories if you care to know more. Ordinary people like you and me, gathering whatever they can share, providing whatever skill or help possible. Food, shelter, a lift in a car for pregnant women and children, medicine, clothes – the list is long.
There are also people who have money who are generous.
The Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris asked Greece and Italy to sell him an island he’d make into a home for the refugees fleeing their battered countries. His offer, via social media, stated that he’d look after everything once he secures a place for them to stay. From what I gather, there has been no response, let alone action on government level.
Bob Geldof offered to house four refugee families in his homes in Kent and London. Mic Jagger’s ex-wife and current socialite and human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger criticised the offer, stating that it oversimplified and doesn’t help solve the crisis. She is right, these issues are immense and complicated. But I’m sure that the lucky tenants – if any were allowed to take up the offer – would be overjoyed at the chance of some dignity and a break.
Stan Collymore, the former Aston Villa striker, stated he’d take in a family immediately for a year.
Not everyone can do the same – for whatever reason. Perhaps you’re thinking “they can afford it”. We can all afford to do something for someone who has less.
The refugee crisis is just another example of what we, the individual, could do to help the collective humankind.
We bring up our children with the idea that “sharing is caring” – how about we adults doing the same?
We cannot individually fix giant problems, but we can help one person at a time.
“Mine” must become “ours”.
It’s a few days since Eid Al Adha – the feast of sacrifice. I deliberately waited until now to write this – with the hope that more people will be around to read it. This isn’t a call to “sacrifice” – it’s an invitation to think of those less fortunate, then do something about it. What can you do to help just one person out there? It could be as simple as running an errand for a single mother who works and would rather spend that time with her children, or taking the time to talk to someone who you know is lonely or struggling with something in their life.
Who, in your life, can you do something for? No money needs to change hands. Every humane connection counts and kindness goes a long way.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at email@example.com and find her on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh