In an article coming out of The Telegraph, a British newspaper, a journalist reported that a prominent Pakistani doctor and his 93 relatives, most prominent professionals in Saidu Sharif, Swat had to flee from the Taliban and live with a family member packed into five rooms spread between two houses. Now it’s true that they had all previously lived together in a compound consisting of seven houses but do you know anyone who has two homes who would take in 93 relatives in exile?
As we move farther and farther away from a tribal mentality, most Americans do not have that kind of loyalty or generosity toward their own families. What struck me about this article though that does relate to the average American is that in this time of economic upheaval and recession, at any given moment in time, people can go from an upwardly mobile position in society to losing everything. In some ways, the working class are at an advantage. Historically, they have deeper roots in tribal responsibility for their own. The upper class tend to think that if one of their own loses their fortune, it might be contagious and therefore distances themselves. Ask any divorced, single ( formerly upper middle class) mother whose husband managed to hide money in the Caymans or had a great lawyer and left her penniless how or if her friends continued to be supportive.
I hear their stories in my office too frequently. But I digress. The point is, regardless of your socioeconomic status, how are you supporting your relatives and friends who are going through hard, economic times? I think the lesson that goes beyond the Pakistani people that we were given during 9/11 and Katrina is that everyone is your family. The responsibility for each other is not codified by tribal affiliation but one of recognition that we really are one family. We move around our worlds not knowing who in front of you in the grocery line is struggling to make ends meet, or the post office or the dry cleaners. As corny as it sounds, sometimes what allows a person down on their luck to brave another day is that someone was kind to them that day – shared a smile, let them go in front in the grocery line, took a dollar out of their pocket and shared it with the guy trying to get coffee who had come up short at Starbucks.
No, you don’t have to let 20 relatives live with you to be a humanitarian. Just take the time to make eye contact with as many people as you can today. How many great sages have said, being present with others is the highest form of spiritual practice. We all need connection during this great time of global transition.
Dr. Toni Galardi is a psychotherapist, author and public speaker. She can be reached at 310-712-2600 or her website, http:www.LifeQuake.net.