Saturday, March 5, 2011

On Giving, and the Boundless Capacity for Guilt

I went to a Catholic convent school in Tokyo for ten years if you recall, so from early on we were taught to make sacrifice, give, and oh, pray, every time a disaster struck. It meant asking Mama for yet another hundred yen because I didn't have much pocket money and my parents often put them in my bank account anyway, but good on Mama because looking back things were tight in those days. Still, I've always kept informed of disasters this side of Biafra and have given at whichever post office I happened to walk by, (and there are many in Japan,) specifying the disaster I wish to give to, entering the amount and handing over money.  It was too easy. Of course these days, it's even easier to give not only within New Zealand but anywhere I please.

Looking back, I took to heart what the teachers and nuns did and not what they said. I conscientious keep updated about a disaster, feel powerless, give a little money, continue to feel powerless, then move on to the next disaster. And if there is no Calamité de Jour, there are always causes and regions that can use my sympathy.

In my 20s and 30s I looked into ways I can participate without medical training, but the Japanese Peace Corp-like organizations had no use for untrained, (if not in medicine, at least something practical,) volunteers, and this was in the days of mostly newspaper adverts, so unless you lived in a disaster-struck region, I believe there was little one could do except to give money.  I think Kobe was the first time un-specialized youth descended from all over the country to help out, but we were in New Zealand by then.   

It's not exactly giving, but I've been a lender at Kiva for a year and a half.  At first I was excited to take part, and enjoyed reading descriptions of entrepreneurs and selecting weavers or women otherwise involved in textiles as much as possible.  It's also a great way to stay involved if your disposable income fluctuates, as once you make a few initial deposits, you get paid back and can roll that money to lend to someone else.  But lately I felt awful catalog-shopping in this manner from the comfort of my home office.  Who am I go play god like that? I keep rolling my money to the next female entropic, but I feel less joy. 

Then came this second Christchurch earthquake.  The damage is visible and it's going to take a long time to remedy, and the press gave it unprecedented coverage, and it's the nearest disaster I've experienced.  There are plenty of worthy groups and regions in New Zealand and elsewhere that don't get press coverage, and without taking anything away from the seriousness of this quake, to be brutally honest, some need more than Christchurch does collectively. Still, the opportunity presented itself in the form of Handmade for Christchurch, and this was a big opportunity to give back to my adopted home country. 

I felt embarrassed because I didn't make anything special for the auction; they were pieces I collected for my perpetually-soon-to-come Etsy shop, (and one piece I'd forgotten about,) sitting, waiting on the stash room floor, some had sat in galleries in town.  Many were... leftovers. Still, the experience of dealing with H4C volunteers has been ever so heart-warming and uplifting. If all goes well, I would have contributed so much more than if I only had the option to give money. So I'm trying to focus on what I can do and do that well, rather than what I didn't get around to doing.  Sampling suggested that, and she's right, you know.

Maybe I did listen to what the teachers and nuns said as well; one of the things I have in boundless amounts is to find guilt everywhere. I think I"ll go now and wrap the donated items and pack to post.


  1. You are amazingly generous Meg. We can only do what we can do and since you weave so well, it makes perfect sense to gift your weaving to the cause. Maybe this is why you hadn't opened an Etsy shop yet...the scarves were needed for something you couldn't have foreseen. These pieces are going to make people very happy : )

  2. Obviously at RMIT they teach not only how to be superb weavers, but how to look at the many twists in one's life, in a different way from how I was taught to see life. Maybe this is why I've been so tardy. Thanks, Shipbuilding, for the lovely thought.


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