Global Voices Online
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Russia is embarking on a 10-day national vacation: from Dec. 30 to Jan. 8, the country will be celebrating the New Year's and Orthodox Christmas - and should also have enough time to rest, relax and sober up in between. Charity isn't among the most popular subjects in the Russian blogosphere during the festive season, although some bloggers do discuss ways of helping the poor and needy this year.
Here is what Moscow-based LJ user mymrochka wrote (RUS) on Dec. 23:
I really want to talk about charity on the eve of the Catholic Christmas. But I'll talk about something else.
Imagine this. You've gone out shopping today, to buy New Year's presents. It's totally crazy around you, people are sweeping all there is off the shelves, no one's really paying attention to the price tags anymore, all you want is to be done with buying everything you need and breathe freely, knowing that on Dec. 30 and 31 you won't have to busy yourself with this shopping madness and can instead devote the day to cooking the proverbial [Olivier salad] to have a place to rest your face in when the sound of the fireworks subsides.
How much have you spent? Me, I'm scared to count. I haven't really enjoyed [the shopping experience] - every time I look at a store counter, I get my usual migraine.
And last night, I went into a store near my house and bought everything that my hungry child had been demanding [...]. There, I saw a babushka [old woman] standing by the entrance again. She's been standing there for a few months already, since it got cold. She stands there quietly, doesn't ask for money, helps people open the door. Every time I walk by, I try not to look at her. For some reason, I feel ashamed. I don't know why. Yesterday I made up my mind [...]. I came up to the babushka decisively, squeezed 100 rubles [approx. $4] into her hand and tried to quickly get away. But failed to. She caught my hand, said something that I didn't hear because I was trying hard to get away. "Pardon me," I said. "What was it?" "Again!!!! Once again!!!" - the old woman said. Then she wished me happiness and health and let me go. On the way home, I suddenly recalled that indeed this wasn't my first feat like this. Only before I had somehow managed to get away quickly and to repress the memory of the babushka and the crumpled bill.
It's horrifying, for some reason. I've no idea if this babushka's got kids, I don't know whether they drew her out to the street, or perhaps she's lonely, or maybe even a drunkard and had spent all her money on liquor and thus became homeless. But it doesn't really matter what had happened. It is wrong that a human being has to stand in front of a store all day long, with nowhere else to go to. Because I'm a human being, too, and I feel upset because of us, humans.
So I'll talk about selfishness.
Let's all of us who've read this try to clean our consciousness by the end of the year - out of pure selfishness - so that we could say proudly about ourselves that we are humans, too, and good humans at that. So let's put aside a sum of money sufficient to buy one New Year's present - to make at least one homeless babushka happy. Or a bum. And it's okay if he spends this money on drinks - it's none of our business. Because he'll be happy, right? He'll think: "What a miracle, they are giving me money, and not just 5 rubles [20 cents], but 200 [$8] - maybe the New Year has indeed arrived?" And he doesn't care about our motivations, so give him the money, even if you feel bad about parting with it, or even if you don't believe that he's an authentic homeless, but an eccentric millionaire who prefers to spend his pre-New Year's free time this way. Forget for a while that 5 rubles given from the heart are better than 500 given with regret, and that the best gift is what you create with your own hands. Money, warm clothes, food - this is what a homeless person needs for Christmas, and this little we can provide him with, even though we can's give him a home.
What can be better for such inveterate egoists like ourselves than to have someone believe that we are magicians or God's messengers?
And then it'll turn out that we've been talking about nothing else but charity all along today.