Author’s Note: this make come off more rant-like than intended. My bad 🙂
I’ve often heard the phrase “charity begins at home”. I didn’t really understand it at first. In fact, it still gives me trouble (obviously, or I wouldn’t be devoting an entire blog post to it). I’ve learnt that it comes from an old English proverb and basically meant that family comes first.
In that sense, I agree that family is very important and should be a priority. But I don’t think the traditional version of family should always come first. In fact, I don’t even think “family” means the same thing to every person. I would count some of my very dear friends as part of my “family”. For me, family isn’t just about blood or marriage. It’s about emotional ties, love and loyalty. I believe that “family” is a fluid term and can represent different groups for different people.
The thing that gets me most about the phrase “charity begins at home” is that I think it’s a cop-out. That is not to say that there aren’t issues within people’s homes, families or here in Canada. Of course, there are problems. But hiding behind this phrase in order to distance yourself from creating solutions for problems outside your home isn’t right. The fact is that poverty in our country is luxury somewhere else. Living under the Canadian poverty line still puts you in the richest 10-15% of the world. I don’t mean to judge anyone’s priorities or spending habits but this phrase shouldn’t be used by people refusing to take action because they can’t afford satellite TV or an iPad for every family member.
I’ve had this phrase used on me when people question what I’m doing to help those in Canada. As I mentioned above, of course there are problems in my country. I do recognize this fact. But I also recognize that there are endless causes to get behind here in Canada and around the globe: greenhouse gases, clean water, peacekeeping, disease control, education, etc. etc. Should I be blamed because I don’t actively work to help each and every one of these causes? Of course not! No humanitarian claims to be solving all of the world’s problems. They find their niche by finding their passion. I am passionate about children’s welfare in third world countries. I am passionate about ending trafficking, increasing access to education, food and water. That’s not to say I don’t care about the environment or finding a cure for cancer or suicide awareness in indigenous communities. But my immediate passions don’t lie there. I am inspired and motivated by my passions, that happen to help people who aren’t Canadian.
I am incredibly lucky that I was born in Canada. I have an insane standard of living, access to free education and healthcare. I have never gone hungry, thirsty or shelter-less. I have never needed to beg for money or steal for things I didn’t have. In essence, my life is amazing. And it’s all due to luck. By chance alone I was born in Canada. I could have been born in any other country to any other set of circumstances. Children born into poverty don’t choose to be born into poverty. They didn’t do something bad and they don’t deserve the lives they are born into. It was simply chance that put them where they are. I am not going to withhold my love and support for someone because we weren’t born in the same country. If anything, I am going to use my incredibly lucky situation to better someone else who wasn’t as lucky to be born in Canada.
My last issue with this phrase is about the word “home”. Charity begins at home….but where is home? I live in Place Vanier, Point Grey, Vancouver, Canada, North America, Earth, etc. Which one is my home? Where is the cut-off line of people I need to help first? Ever since I learnt the term “global citizen” I have connected with it so much. I’m not just Canadian or North American, I am a global citizen of the world. I actively take part in this by visiting other countries, meeting people from outside of Canada and learning about their cultures. I care about the planet as a whole. For me, the world is my home. I intend to visit as much of it as I can. I want to live throughout the world and learn all about it. My home is not with my family in Toronto or within the borders of my country.
My home is the world. And that’s where my charity will begin.