Stuart Leavenworth, a journalist for the Sacramento Bee, spent his vacation gutting homes in St. Bernard Parish with Habitat for Humanity’s St. Bernard Recovery Project. When he returned home to the West Coast, he wrote this piece which appeared in the Opinion section of the Bee: “To save homes, we gutted 'em.”
For the uninitiated to the gutting experience or for those outside the area who haven’t been paying close attention to what’s been happening on the Gulf Coast, it was a nice piece. I am sure his target audience will learn something.
But it ended with something we all should learn:
I felt ashamed accepting beers from people who have lost so much, but in the back of my mind, I realized this was a reciprocal arrangement. Sacramento is a floodplain, and much of California is threatened by earthquakes. Someday the tables will be turned, and we will rely on the kindness of strangers.How simple is that? Help others, and others will help you. If others help you, help them back.
Otherwise expressed: Do good things, and good things happen. Another variant: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Also know as: the Golden Rule. Covered in the Law of Karma. Also heard: What goes around, comes around.
Oyster has a good post on why earthquake-prone areas of California should consider future returns on their good deeds on the Gulf Coast. And I have mentioned Sacramento before and why experience in gutting houses might be applicable sometime in the future there.
But more than just the ways we may benefit from our good will down the road, helping out other humans is the human thing to do. It is how we became human. It’s in our DNA. It shaped our evolution.
In discussing evolution, much has been made of the phrase “only the strong survive” and how it goes with the concepts of “survival of the fittest” and natural selection. But being the biggest, baddest, most vicious competitor doesn’t always make you the strongest or the fittest competitor. Those genes aren’t always the ones that get passed down through the generations.
In fact, without our arsenal of tools, humans were rarely the biggest, baddest, most vicious competitors in a given ecosystem. So, to be the fittest, we worked together – with family, fellow tribe members, and even strangers that may have or may not have looked like us. This was the evolution of cooperation.
That cooperation was reciprocal. Tit for tat. And, as much as we have tried to seclude ourselves in our air-conditioned cell blocks and act like the island no man or woman really is, there will inevitably come a time for all of us when we will have to collect a tat for our tit. And woeth be to he or she who hath not given up his or her tit.
Thank you, Stuart Leavenworth, for giving us your tit. When you come to collect a tat from us, there will be one waiting.
And for all of you who keep asking us why we want to live here, there are no tats for you. That question contains no tits. And, until you show us your tits, we will hold back our tats.
Then again, that’s probably not the human thing to do either. I am forgetting my message: Do good things, and good things happen. The converse of that – Do bad things, and bad things happen – would apply to the holding back of tats, even in the face of no tits.
So, fine, world. Have your tats, even if you don’t give us any tits. That’s just the way we do it in this part of the world. But, for us to help you in the future, you might need to do the human thing and help us right now. Or, at least get out of the way while we do it ourselves.
NOTE: Please click on the above “Tit for tat” link and read the "Implications" so that I will look less like the sexist pig I probably am.