Anthropologist, Margaret Mead, has an interesting take on when civilization began. It wasn’t when we figured out how to use fire or when we designed the wheel. It was when humans learned to take care of each other. Mead wrote:
“In the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink, or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety, and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts.”
I often think about what makes people human and one answer that satisfies me is when someone ignores their instincts. Yes, instincts can save our lives but they also get in the way–all the time. Yet, I shouldn’t care about my kids as much as I should because that isn’t what nature intended. And I certainly shouldn’t share my resources (including time and energy) with someone in need because that isn’t what survival of the fittest explains. I do those things despite what my biology says. Because they bring me joy. They bring purpose and meaning. It alleviates suffering. When we share, we grow.
This Madison Cunningham’s song reminded me of the many ways we can take care of each other in this lovely tribute to her grandmother.