23.8 C
Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

Erring on the side of kindness

Latest News

An adventure of a different kind

Two years ago adventurer Emma Scattergood discovered that a journey doesn’t always involve travel. In 2022, Emma was told she had stage 3 invasive lobular breast cancer. 

Other News

NSW Aboriginal Land Councils elections this weekend

Elections for members of NSW Aboriginal Land Councils (NSWALC) are on this weekend and NSWALC CEO Yuseph Deen stresses the critical significance of active participation in shaping the future of Aboriginal communities in New South Wales.

They got the Dojo Rise

Adam Blesing, Sean Dedrick and Anthony Sherwood are Dojo Rise – forging their own unique footprint in the music industry, with their uplifting south coast sound; an eclectic fusion of reggae/dub, pop and indie soul.

‘Mandatory’ pesticide spraying deferred at Bruns pod village

Flood-affected residents have had a last-minute reprieve by the NSW Reconstruction Authority, who had planned to spray controversial pesticides at the Bruns pod village.

Wallum: councillors failed to listen to the community

Thank you, Councillors Lyon, Pugh and Coorey for explaining what went wrong with the Wallum development application (DA) process on Facebook. The community f*cked up because they failed to object?

New board announced for Dirawong Reserve – no former members selected

A new community board has been appointed to oversee the management of the popular Dirawong Reserve at Evans Head.

Appointments for free breastscreen van in Mur’bah next month

Around ninety per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

There is one thing we can all do in these wretched times of powerlessness and overwhelming sorrow. Give. 

When I was in Dharamshala in northern India, where the Dali Lama governs in exile, I was often confronted by beggars on my way to class or meditation. Children with twisted limbs, mothers with sick infant on breast, the elderly only able to crawl. To give or not to give, this was the dilemma. Seasoned travellers swore by dicta that to give was just to perpetuate the industry which was run by criminal elements who staged or maimed for their own benefit. 

I was learning about giving to your enemies as a lesson on compassion one day, when I realised that the begging quandary was a problem I should seek to learn from.  

I went to a cafe for lunch, and found myself sitting next to a monk who was disabled as a result of frostbite occasioned on his crossing from Tibet. We got to talking, as you do, and I asked for his opinion on the beggars. Essentially, should I give to the beggars or not? 

Well, he said, do you have money? Yes, I answered. Well, he said, then you should give. Mmm. 

I said, ‘If I give to every beggar every day then I soon won’t have any money’. 

And he said, ‘Well that may be true… and it may come to pass… in which case, you will not have a dilemma any more’.

I was stunned at this deceptively simple but deeply challenging solution. Just give until you can’t give any more and go from there. I must have looked somewhat surprised. 

‘Giving is the noble expression of the benevolence of the mighty,’ he said. And he gave a Dali Lama type of chuckle.

From that moment, I gave to every beggar on the street at Dharmshala, and of course I did not go broke, as I was only there for a month. Interestingly ‘my beggars’, the regulars, soon protected me from others, and my daily sojourn included what I came to view as my coin dropping zig zag road toll. 

After a while, they just waited for me to come to them. 

It was a powerful and poignant lesson for me that I have carried comfortably for years. 

If you have, you should give. It is an act of compassion, of loving kindness, that helps the giver and the recipient in deep and lasting ways. 

Even if karma is just a myth, I would continue to give – not for a better deal in the hereafter, but for a better world in the present. Jesus had it right, it is harder for a rich person to get to heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.

And I reckon this is true of Australia as a nation – the starting point is that giving is good.

How sad the grim reality is. In any discussion of foreign aid, it is worth remembering that there are many who are against our government giving anything as they struggle with day-to-day expenses. 

I get this. Yet there is a mythical framework to this distaste – when you ask the naysayers what proportion of GDP we give, it is characteristically overestimated at five per cent to 15 per cent rather than the reality. 

Not only that, but the biggest givers individually to foreign aid projects or disaster funds, proportionately as well as in total, are those in the lower socioeconomic brackets. Not only that, but the poor volunteer their time in much greater numbers than the well-off. Jesus had something to say about that too when a poor widow donated two small coins.

With foreign government aid, the common international benchmark is 0.7 per cent of national income. In the ’50s and ’60s, Australia sat at about 0.5 per cent. Then the Fraser years saw a rapid decline to 0.33 per cent. In the Hawke/Keating years, things got worse, Rudd/Gillard aimed for 0.5 per cent but never got there, and ever since we have been bumping along the bottom, now at less than 0.2 per cent and not forecast to improve for years yet.

In the mid ’90s, we were ninth out of 30 of the richest countries for giving, now we are 27th, despite being the 12th-richest country in the world.

So for the moment, giving is all I can do in the absence of lying down before tanks in Gaza or Ukraine. I feel so deeply angry and ashamed that Israel is killing so many civilians. 

I just cannot watch it any more without wanting to throw something through the television and yell ‘well if you want to curb antisemitism, perhaps you could start by not killing children’. 

If a Hamas operative was hiding under a building surrounded by Israeli hostages, as opposed to Palestinian human shields, would you bomb them? And we all know the answer is ‘no’, so what does that say about you? 

So I give. I normally try to find a direct personal connection to funnel funds and shy away from the big charities, but this time that is not possible. Médecins Sans Frontières is a great option, especially after reading how four of those doctors were bombed to death recently in a Gaza operating theatre. Amnesty International is a medium-term choice for promoting lasting peace and human rights. And UNICEF has a specific campaign for the children of Gaza. 

I speak, I write, I give. I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. 

♦ David Heilern is a former magistrate, and is now Dean of Law at SCU.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. That’s actually how you go about impoverishing the world. If you want to help, give them a means of providing for them self. Imagine if the money used to develop modern farming technology had been handed out to the poor instead. They would all be dead by now.
    Find what is needed in the area, and provide them with the tools of production. Helping them grow the local economy doesn’t just help them, it helps everyone around them.

      • David can pay to feed and house all the poor there, and pay for the infrastructure and training, while the economy of the area increases for a couple of decades? With increased wealth comes corruption. Is David going to rule over them to provide fairness in the system? The David Raj? Once you move beyond axioms, things get complicated fast.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Police confirm two babies dead on February 11 in Mullumbimby

NSW Police have confirmed that at about 2am Sunday 11 February, emergency services were called to a home in Mullumbimby following reports of a concern for welfare.

Just what the doctor and nurses and midwives ordered

It seems like nurses and midwives are always struggling under the weight of poor patient-to-staff ratios. It is hoped that an influx of new workers could help ease the load. This will be a welcome relief for local staff.

Affordable housing summit next week

As the affordable housing issue shows no signs of easing in the near future, key figures in the housing, property, and finance sectors will come together to tackle the country’s housing challenges at the ninth Affordable Housing Development & Investment Summit

Lorikeets on the mend as paralysis season eases

A poorly-understood phenomenon where lorikeets in the region becoming paralysed and unable to fly is thankfully coming to an end for 2024, says WIRES wildlife vet, Dr Tania Bishop.