In response to terrorism, I saw this simple but sad and profound sign: “humans, but no humanity.” When people forget their humanity, I say, start with the dictionary. Humanity (noun) can be defined four ways:
1. All human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
The key word here is ALL. I’ll say it again. ALL.
2. The quality or condition of being human; human nature.
After becoming wheel-chair bound due to Multiple Sclerosis, my Grandmother came to live with us for a while. Losing much of her mobility and her independence, she seemed understandably bitter at times, but when she pushed through her struggles, she gave me drawing lessons. Human nature balances somewhere between selfishness and altruism but it always tips toward the right thing. Thankfully. Unlike animals, we humans have a moral predisposition and scorn violence and contempt. Except when we forget. See history.
3. The quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.
I missed the bus in Grade 1 once. A Grade 6 girl waited with me while my Mom drove to town. She sat very close to me, quietly. I don’t recall her name but when my Mom finally arrived, a Popsicle in her hand, I ran to greet her and quite honestly, I doubt if I even glanced back to thank that girl for essentially being my family while I sat and cried on the front steps of our school for thirty minutes. We were strangers but kindness and benevolence prevailed. As it should. When we don’t forget.
4. The humanities: the study of languages, literature, Latin and Greek classics, philosophy, art, etc., as distinguished from the natural sciences.
I have always found my heart and my truth in stories and in writing and in art. I believe it’s our ability to read and to write and to draw that leads to understanding, to wisdom, to action. One of my early literature obsessions was Shel Silverstein. He said, “Many leaves, one tree.” The key here is ONE. I’ll say it again. ONE.