Small streams make big rivers

Tomorrow, as every year on August 19th, is World Humanitarian Day (WHD). The First World gives money and food to feed the Third World. That’s how many people see it. What a dreadful perspective!

First World, Second World, Third World. Who makes these categories? Humans. And humans can err. Anyone who does not want to learn from people in the so-called Third World, have no place in the highly valued First World. To show one’s humanness means showing one’s concern for other human beings and empathy for the distress and needs of others. Kindness and benevolence are the opposite of narrow-mindedness and arrogance and the condescending sharing of crumbs from the table of the rich. True humanity comes from within the human being. It is not something that is draped over oneself with a sense of superiority towards others. Such arrogance leads to selfishness and thoughtlessness, and is condemned by no one less than Jesus Christ. He spoke vehemently against those who thought they were rich and superior, and declared Himself an opponent of the caste mentality.

The Bible is full of examples: His parable of the Pharisee, for example, who was infatuated with himself. “‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” Jesus commented: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18: 9–14).

Or the parable of the rich fool. “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” He was proud of himself and all the wealth he had amassed and was devoured by ambition. In the end, however, God called him a fool: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12: 16–21).

A day of action for more kindness and benevolence

World Humanitarian Day is a day of action, according to the United Nations. The day is a tribute to aid workers who risk their lives and to rally support for people affected by crises. One of its basic principles is impartiality and neutrality. It is not about resolving conflicts, but alleviating suffering without displaying favouritism. The sole focus is on the people needing help. OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, estimates that some 60 million people currently need humanitarian aid. Food, tents, clothing—much of this has to be brought to dangerous places and distributed. Numerous aid workers are involved in this and often risk their lives doing so. That is why World Humanitarian Day is also dedicated to them!

Many good deeds

The credo is: On 19 August everyone can do something for another person, and share the message over the Internet. There are many simple and good things one can do for the most vulnerable in society and make a difference: helping the sick, visiting people in hospital or in nursing and care homes, visiting the elderly, and much more.

Showing kindness and benevolence is something you must want and then do it, each in his own world. How did Albert Schweitzer put it: “Small streams make big rivers.”

Photo: ©staffprod96 -

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Peter Johanning
Aid agencies, Social commitment, International