Last weekend I witnessed a fight in a Facebook group. The fight led me to realize something about how we ought to look out for one another.
I’m a member of several Buy Sell Trade Facebook groups, since I needed to replace our car recently, and that was where I searched for a vehicle. The price of the car wiped us out and we’ve been broke for a month. I don’t even know how I’ll register Serendipity when the two-month tag expires, so I don’t have shopping money. But I haven’t left the buy-sell-trade groups because they make for some fascinating people watching. The town gossip spreads faster through there than just about anywhere else. The spats people get into can be hilarious, like something out of James Thurber. This one wasn’t fun to watch, though. This fight was sad.
A lady in one of the Buy Sell Trade groups posted asking for a certain plus size of clothing, and a bit of food for her cat. She didn’t have any money but wondered if someone could bring her these things, as she didn’t have a car to come get it either. Many people were responding kindly to this; they offered to bring her a can of tuna for now and to drive her to the humane society’s monthly pet food giveaway next week. But another lady was taunting her, asking if she had a job. When the woman with the cat said she had no job because she was disabled, the busybody demanded to know her disability, and it went on from there. The busybody insisted that it was irresponsible to have a pet if you don’t have any money. I interjected that the lady with the cat had obviously not gotten into this fix on purpose. And on it went, until the moderator banned the busybody.
Now the lady with the cat was free from her tormenter, and she had things to keep the cat happy until the humane society giveaway. But she still didn’t have anything to wear.
I clicked on her name, which led me to a long list of her posts in the group. Than was how I found out she’d been asking for cat food every several weeks, and sometimes for someone to bring her her medication from the pharmacy because she couldn’t move very reliably. She had been asking for clothing for two months, and nobody ever gave her any.
I’ve written before about how hard it is to get plus size clothing at a thrift store or a charity drive. They just don’t stock those sizes.
I felt sick.
I didn’t have any clothing in her size and I didn’t even have a dollar in the checking account. But I had social media.
I happen to belong to a few body positive support groups on Facebook where there are women of all sizes who swap tips on where to get fashionable clothes or workout outfits that fit. I awkwardly asked if any of them were this size and had any extra used clothes to help my neighbor out. I was afraid that would be taken as offensive, but several people said they had things they would be happy to pass along. I got a mailing address from the lady with the cat. For good measure, I asked on my Twitter as well if anyone could help, and somebody sent her a gift card to pick out a coat. She got several packages of things.
I didn’t do any of that. I just noticed her request and asked somebody else. I didn’t have a thing to share. But she still got what she needed.
I guess this illustrates the difference between solidarity and charity– and I don’t mean charity the theological virtue. Charity, caritas, love, is the best thing that could ever be. I just mean charity in the sense of a rich person condescending to help a poor person. I couldn’t give any charity. Hardly anybody I asked had that type of charity to give. They weren’t rich. I don’t think I know any rich people.
But we could all pull together in solidarity. I could look out for my neighbors and notice when they had a problem. Some neighbors could help with cat food and rides to the humane society. I could use my social media following , which is an asset I have that many people don’t. People with extra clothes could pass them along when they were needed instead of throwing them out or letting them sit in a closet. People with a little extra money could buy somebody a coat. We did all that together.
Solidarity is something you can do whether you’re well off or not. In fact, it’s easier if you’re not well off, because then you’re rubbing shoulders with so many other people who aren’t well off. You can look out for your neighbors, and come together to help them.
Solidarity is something we should all practice.
Let’s start today.
image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.