We don’t tend to think about what basic human needs are in our modern society. Because most people in the modern world have access to food, clothing, housing, and some means of transportation, the idea of what it means to live within our natural environment does not cross anyone’s minds. We live in a bubble that is heated and air conditioned year round. Being stuck in a vehicle in a snow storm for 2 days or having the electricity be down for a week is nearly unbearable.
And when someone else they may or may not know loses their job, their homes and belongings, access to food and water, we send off a little bit of money and feel with smug pride that we have “helped the poor”.
Or we just ignore them and rarely think about them because it doesn’t affect us.
But the real question is, have we really touched the lives of those in real need?
We haven’t, for the most part, ever experienced true poverty, true lack in our own daily lives, so we have very little experience in what it means to not have. We think that we will never be touched by lack, so we don’t consider those who are.
But what is really necessary for life?
If we had everything we possessed taken from us, it would change our perspective of what really is the basic need of every human being.
If it was not for the kindness of our neighbors, we would not have had the start of our journey back to nutritional sanity. They didn’t give money; they gave their love, time, and assistance through a group they knew who delivered us a kitchen table’s worth of food. Another couple opened up their house to us when I lost everything.
I went from place to place, experiencing the humiliation of basically begging for our bread and clothing until such time as our family could monetarily regain enough to find the things needed to survive: a basic roof over our heads, food, clothing, water, and simple mode of transportation. And when that time did come, I was grateful for those things. Even if the roof and neighborhood wasn’t perfect, and the car was very old. Those simple things met our basic needs. And I learned to be content with less.
Modern society and people in fancy cars did not help us. The government didn’t come to save us. It was through the kindness and concern of local friends and neighbors, loving churches, and a wonderful Jewish family that gave us the strength and knowledge I needed to continue on. It was people helping people, providing mercy and love, and the gift of their personal time that helped us through that darkness.
Do we really have any idea what is needed to survive in this fragile thing we call “life”?
There is a constant bombardment in our society that dictates what we are supposed to “need”. Advertising is designed to entice us to want new things, buy items for the sake of convenience (such as a warmer for hand lotion and the seeming convenience of fast or frozen meals), nutritionally unsound junk foods (chips, pizzas, and assorted candies especially designed to lure children into the world of diabetes and obesity), newer vehicles that cost as much as a small house, expensive vacations to resorts or large amusement parks, even medical treatments that we don’t necessarily need.
Marketing is an insidious hotbed of evil intent that serves to line the pocketbooks of the shareholders, but does little to help the people who see their luring ads. I know, having working the industry for many years, photoshopping the knots out of decking so people would “buy the dream”. “Buy the dream”, but without concern for the necessities. The very definition of consumerism.
Mother Theresa once said that the biggest thing lacking in the West is Love. And that cannot come in the form of material goods. They satisfy that innate need to feel important as we show off our new wares to others, but, in the end, they do not feed the spirit for any meaningful length of time. Instead, they create a hit of dopamine followed by a need to get another hit.
It is when we come face-to-face with the our base humanity that we find what is important. The important things can come when we lose a loved one in death or divorce; it can come when we lose our jobs for whatever reason, from layoffs to standing up for principled values; it can come from loss of possessions from bankruptcy or natural disasters. These things can be found in our lives in the blink of an eye, or take years to evolve into nothingness.
It is then that we realize that those things don’t provide us with what is important in life. They are helpers, reminders, conveniences, cause of our ease during our earthly journey, but in no way feed us deep down in our very being.
So what does feed us in the deep interior place?
It begins when our spiritual needs are met. When a person passes by a homeless individual, throws a few pennies in their cup, and tells them they will pray for them while the snow builds around them, that does not give them what they so desperately need. Sitting down and talking with them, giving them food and a blanket, finding them a shelter to live in, or just give them some of your time can make a world of difference to them.
Giving of self is the most valuable, most fulfilling thing any human being can do for another. It meets a need that must first be touched before the physical necessities can be appreciated.
We throw government funding and welfare checks to people. We tell them that they can have government provided housing, government provided cell phones, government provided medical care and food. Those choices are defined by bureaucrats who live in multi-million dollar houses with big salaries to match.
When locations are hit with natural disasters, large corporations jump in to help. They give materials and provisions to the cities and towns where they have facilities. But the choice of provisions is designated by the corporation. And it is usually only in areas where they will gain customer loyalty when everything becomes normalized once more.
Buckets of cleaning supplies hardly help when the individuals have lost their homes and their bellies are empty.
None of these entities every consider asking what it is that each individual really needs. Or the community, for that matter. They have neither the time nor the desire. It is a blanket swath of material and monetary goods as if each person’s needs are the same.
The blanket of love
A real love for people as individuals with individual needs comes from the community around them. It comes from the men and women who choose to recognize those in need. Listen to them, find out what they want, and love them where they are at. Then, and only then, do they give the material provisions to their brothers and sisters.
If you want to choose to give, you must first learn to listen. Go to the food lines. Participate in the charity groups that serve your local community. Find out what it means to be in need. Then love your neighbors in a way that will best provide for their needs. Give your time, your talents, your money, your provisions. Be that place of refuge. Be that light of Love that can only come from the generosity between one human heart to another. It is selfless. It is part of being human.