The spirit of sharing with the less fortunate is not uncommon in Thailand. Many rural homes still have jars of water out front for thirsty passers-by, farming communities unite at harvest time and “basket festivals” are held to collect items for the needy. Even in the cities such kindnesses are often seen. When the southern provinces were inundated in floods three years ago, Bangkokians donated so much food and clothing that authorities were hard-pressed to distribute it all.
Yet there is perhaps more that can be done and better ways to do it. Photos taken recently in eastern Canada, currently gripped by biting winter cold, have made the rounds on the social media in Thailand and provided fresh inspiration. One woman in the town of Caledonia, Nova Scotia, has for years been soliciting donations of warm clothing for the homeless and this year recruited a squad of youngsters to tie the coats, scarves and mittens to utility poles in Halifax, the provincial capital, ready for use by anyone in need. Widely hailed in the West as a charming sign of “Christmas coming early”, this modest show of altruism can readily be replicated in any country of any faith and any climate. Only the type of items being freely offered need be changed.
An old Thai adage asserts that true kindness and compassion appear from nowhere like soothing rain, and can be neither forced nor taken for granted. It’s an example of the wisdom that we hope is still being handed down to the younger generation, just as those kids in Canada are learning the joy of sharing by doing so. They know how cold it is and can imagine how terrible it must be to have no means to stay warm, so there is instant empathy for the poor and willingness to help.
The spirit of sharing it easily taught through good words and deeds. For young minds and hearts, the realisation comes naturally that sparing a little time and effort can help the less fortunate in a most meaningful way.
Thai youngsters should be taught that they don’t necessarily have to go to a temple to help or to wait for a crisis to be of good use. There are people in need of assistance every day and every hour. Better-off citizens can donate goods or volunteer their assistance anytime. The social media, with their firm foothold in Thailand, can play a major role in promoting acts of kindness among youth. Their users should occasionally set aside the political wrangling, self-serving displays and the needs of their “targeted audiences” long enough to address the millions of kids who are constantly soaking up online content.
Nobility of heart is too closely associated with religion and the loftier aims of politics. Morality at its noblest is epitomised by the jar of water waiting to quench the thirst of a passing stranger. There is nothing religious or political about it, only compassion for humanity, a social conscientiousness untainted by guilt or expectation. And it surely does youngsters a world of good if they’re encouraged to focus on what is self-evidently right rather than muddled messages about what’s wrong. A generation raised to be unquestioningly giving and compassionate might even heal the national divide that now distorts so many people’s sense of right and wrong.
The solution to the current political malaise will ultimately come down to both sides reaching out, and not just the rival political camps. It is the generation instilled with empathy and the spirit of giving – rather than prejudice – that will bridge the gulf.