Monday, April 27, 2009

Life Ain't Always Beautiful

Warren Buffet tells a story of a woman who survived the Nazis. She was the only one in her family to survive. She told Mr. Buffet that every time she met someone she asked herself whether or not this was a person who would hide her from the Nazis.

Now, being the practical, funny, sideways sort of person that I am, I don’t think about who would hide me, I think about what sort of person I’d want to hide me. Because I don’t want a weak idiot who’s going to tell the first storm trooper to knock on the door exactly where I am hiding to hide me. Or someone without, say, food. Etc. I’m sure there were people like that who tried to hide people during the Holocaust but I’m sure we don’t have those stories because those people didn’t actually survive.

Only the smart, clever, tough as nails ones did. And many of those didn’t.

I happen to think that what is now happening in this country and in the world could be devastating, and people could be dying from what will happen, and likely not only in third world countries. Our family lives in a sustainable way, which means that we are not so affected by those vagaries of the wider world. We might be people that other people would wish to hide with. In fact, lots of people joke that way; “Oh, I know where to go” in case of this or that.

What I have thought about is what sort of people I would welcome in. Living sustainable is quite rewarding but it does require a few things -- hard work, hardiness, cheerfulness in the face of hardship, and pretty well all other things that have “hard” in them.

It is not an easy life. It is a worthy life.

So, will you be looking for someone to hide you? Or deciding who is worth hiding? Because doing for others is partly a matter of willingness, of kindness, of generosity, of morality. But it isn’t possible to do for others when you can’t even do for your own.

The woman who was hidden from the Nazis and survived, the woman who asked herself whether or not she thought a person would hide her should she need hiding, observed that she found it very difficult to make friends. You think? Real friends don’t come by the dozens. Real friends don’t just say the easy things. Real friends, well, . . . .

12 comments:

Madcap said...

Still trying to the be the person I'd like to be saved by ... gives new meaning to "working out your salvation with fear and trembling". I found my many-years-neglected garden this weekend under many layers of dead weeds. And snow. We had another weekend of snow!

Btw, I always keep an eye on your sidebar, and after looking up what TCS means, I deeply agree with Susan. I'm really uneasy around people who make their children the suns around which their universe revolves. I want them to be their own universes, and me, mine.

CG said...

Brilliant MC! (about salvation)

Susan is brilliant too. (about unschooling) I think you'd like her.

I always wonder about the sidebar thing. I love the book thing in particular.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

I think I'd be one in a position to hide someone if it came to that. I would hide family first of course. But then, if my family had to hide, chances are I would too, right?

So actually I'd be willing to hide a stranger, but they'd have to be the right sort of stranger. Hiding folks is a risky proposition for those that hide. So I wouldn't want someone who would crack up on me due to confinement. Screaming babies/toddlers would have to be out too, sad thought it might be. Someone with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement probably wouldn't work out either.

I suppose both the hidors and the hidees would need to be evaluated for risk assessment. Let's hope we never actually have to make those evaluations - from either end.

CG said...

amen kate.

I also think that most of the time those sorts of evaluations probably aren't done. It is probably on more of a "blink" gut level that the decision is made. Still, I know people who I knew I would not give emergency shelter to because I know they would be a long term hindrance -- and I love them. And that decision is as much gut as anything too really.

CG said...

I still like MC's thing of trying to BE the person we'd like to be saved by. I think that is significant.

Meadowlark said...

Late to the party, but I loved this post.

I suppose this is why I'm happy I have few friends. Most are not worth hiding and I'd be the one rolling my eyes towards the closet door if they were hiding there. Yeah, I suck. But those WORTH hiding... while few and far between, they are pure GOLD.

Wendy said...

I have the smallest piece of land in my neighborhood, but I am the only one who is even trying to "do" for myself and my family.

I've thought a lot about the morality of helping others, and I like to think I would, because it's the right thing to do, but at the same time, I work very hard at trying to make my life more sustainable, and then, I see my family and neighbors making irresponsible choices and not really taking any pains to do for themselves, and I wonder, if it came down to protecting myself, my husband, and my three *minor* children and helping others who've done little more than watch television for the past several years, how willing I would be to help them who never tried to help themselves. It would be different if they tried and failed, but to not try at all, and then, expect me to just give what I've worked so hard to build ....

It's a hard question, and my hope is simply that I never have to answer it, because I might not like the person I discover I am.

CG said...

ok, see, you all are getting to my favorite place! I LOVE morality talk, and what is and is not moral and why and all that jazz. People who think they are all goodness and light SUCK because they are not, not when it comes down to it. And as a result I think real morality, real GOOD morality anyway, is way more complicated, way more thoughtful. It is the same old "walk your talk" thing -- but folks who talk world peace and make the same consumerist choices (because "my family" is most important) suck. (sorry, I'm stuck on that word right now) Reminds me of Al Gore and global "warming". He sucks. I get mad at that stuff.

So, to cut it short, I'd much rather know the person I am. And I am not a nice person. I am a tough person. I am a person you can depend on. I am a responsible person. But I will not cut my nose off to make my face more beautiful.

annetteinalaska said...

But you're not a not nice person either. And you certainly don't seem mean. Some might not like your choices or your way of dealing with things, but that's not meanness. And it's certainly not not nice.

WonderSoul said...

We have had some great converstaions on the mountain about this. My neighbor can see down the road and he says when it gets bad he will put up a gate and pick em off when 'they' try to get through. I asked what if its friends and family. He says if it gets that bad I'm not taking the chance. My idea was to tell the ones we wanted here to wear some particular something and he agreed. So we both feel a little better ;)

iagreewithme.wordpress.com said...

Being Jewish I have thought about this a lot. First of all most of the people who hid Jews were not friends of those they hid because Jews were pretty segregated even the wealthy assimilated Jews. So those who saved Jews and were willing to hide them were extremely amazing people (for example, I have to ask myself, would I risk my life and the life of my children to hide a stranger? I honestly wish I could say yes, but I DO NOT KNOW.) One of the reasons that there is a huge fuss among Jews even today about "Righteous Gentiles" is because we know that it took a certain type of courage to risk so much. We still raise money for those who are alive and their family members who saved Jews because many of them are very poor and were even ostracized in their own communities when the truth came out.
However one thing I do know about myself is that I WOULD NEVER turn in someone which is the real problem with what happened in WWII. Jews were turned in for a piece of bread or a bar of soap etc...
I agree that the question to really ask is could you save a stranger's life? That makes it a really tough call. You could not know if they were a good person or not or if you liked them or not. I know some who survived, and it was a combination of pure luck, the right stranger who helped them and/or their own youth, health, strength,guts,survival mechanism etc..Real morality is not about helping those we love. I think the really hard question is could we help a stranger who could do nothing for us and who actually could end up causing our death or the deaths of our family members. Probably that is why nobody really could save the Jews once things got so bad. It was too damn scary. Still why did they have to turn them in. I cannot deal with that part. I understand if you could not save my life or hide me. I might not be able to do that either even if I wish that I could.

CG said...

Amy, my take would be that they turned them in because they convinced themselves it was the right thing to do. Maybe they needed, or thought they needed, that bar of soap (after all, an unwashed cut could be deadly). I think we do that a lot really, just in way smaller ways because mostly we are not dealing in life and death and Nazi's.