May 22, 2014

Horse 1679 - Charity That Costs Nothing

At midnight last night, my weekly MyMulti 3 ticket expired; not that there's anything particularly interesting about that but what I propose to do is to perform an experiment.

Could I give away a free ticket?
It was a Wednesday night. I didn't need it anymore and whoever I'd gave it to would have had virtually unlimited¹ travel until 4am the next day. Let me just reiterate that... virtually UNLIMITED¹ travel.

I think that in our world where we constantly have to work for just about everything, where we're almost on treadmill of drudgery, the idea that anyone would dare to give us anything for free is a little strange.
I think that there must be thousands of little opportunities like these. Like me, there must be thousands upon thousands of people who get off the train at the end of the week who could pass their tickets on to someone else. How about that time left over in a car space where you still have time on the ticket? How about even mowing someone else's nature strip? There must be thousands of opportunities where the chance to perform some act of charity for virtually zero cost must exist.

Thanks largely to the society which we've designed for ourselves, hiding behind the walls of fancy iDevices, in which community has been torn in shreds, where people don't really speak to their neighbours any more and where everything has been reduced to a quantifiable price, Charity has become just one of those things that we think of where we have to give money to someone; yet we don't often think about donating time, or in the case of unexpired tickets, something which literally² doesn't cost us anything.
I think it odd that of the Christian triple of faith hope and charity (pistis, elpis and agape), two of those are functionally virtues in Greek whereas the third agape is a practice. Charity which is derived from the Latin word "caritas" implies a sense of preciousness but it doesn't then imply a sense of expensiveness.
I'm re-reading though sections of Plato's "The Republic" in which he sets forth his idea for a perfect society of sorts and he suggests that the agape of the governing classes should involve self-controlled and rational decisions for the masses. Charity for Plato doesn't even necessarily mean the giving of money but even the mere act of the governing classes speaking to the ruled, in the forum is seen as an act of charity (something which our current leaders and business rulers are loathed to do). I suppose that the modern equivalent would be a conversation over a cup or tea, or at a coffee shop or down at the pub. Charity in this case, is about a conversation and making a connection with people in the third place³.
Agape in normal koine Greek though, takes on a more straightforward meaning. Agape as it was normally used in Greek denotes an intent to promote well-being in others, even if there is no expected return.

I didn't honestly expect any return for giving away my MyMulti 3 ticket except the knowledge that the person who got it, would get a benefit that they were not expecting and because it cost me literally nothing to do, I hoped that they would then go on and be generous to someone else with the money that they saved.
In the end, I did give away my MyMulti 3 ticket to the one person who I saw coming down the stairs to the train station. They duly thanked me and I hope that my rather pathetic act of charity which quite literally cost me nothing, was contagious.

¹except entry to Domestic and International stations, though curiously they could go to the airport by bus.
²literally literally, not metaphorically literally
³for more on the "third place", Ray Oldenburg's book "The Great Good Place" (1989) is the seminal starting point for this concept.

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