Just “Humane” Nature

By Janet McNeal

As a child I lived in true poverty.  I remember one time opening the door on the kitchen cupboard and the ONLY item in there was a partial bag of oyster crackers.  You know, the little hexagon shaped crackers that came in a paper bag with a glassine window in the front.  They were meant to be eaten in soup, or more accurately, oyster stew.

I love to cook, and even as a child did most of the cooking in my family.  But this was a real challenge.  I looked at the bag and wondered, how could that possibly feed seven hungry children and their mother?  Even worse, there was no prospect on the horizon for anything more coming our way that day, or the next, or even the day after that.

I am a bit of a logical, analytical thinker and did what any logical, analytical person would do.  I dumped the contents onto a baking sheet and counted all the little crackers.  I then divided it by eight to decide how many crackers each person would get.

Then I thought, but wait, Mom is a grown up and needs more food than the much smaller baby.  Do I distribute them based on the size and age of the person?  Or do I give everyone exactly the same number?  What do I do with the remainder since the division didn’t come out exactly even?  Should I give everyone a half portion to ensure we eat tomorrow? What should I do?

Since I am writing this article, it is obvious I did not starve.  The reason we did not perish was the kindness and generosity of the people around us; some were strangers and some were friends.  Back in the 60’s when this happened, most people were poor; at least by today’s standards. Thankfully, people came to our house and brought food, and milk for the baby.  One family in particular still stands out in my mind for their generosity because they had scarcely more than we did.  Yet they gave of their meager resources to help us.

As I write this we are several weeks into the great COVID-19 crisis.  On Marketplace this morning I saw single rolls of toilet paper being offered for sale at $10 or more per roll.  Multipacks were posted for anyplace between $75 and $150 per pack.  Some were listed as “1/2 price sales” at $75 and “markdowns” from $99 or more.  Grocery store shelves were empty and these brazen, greedy profiteers were exploiting the crisis.

I complained to a friend who defended it as just “human” nature.  If that is human nature, I think we need to start embracing “humane” nature.

As appalling as this conduct is, it is far too common.  Often, two parties are in conflict or at an impasse; one thinks they deserve “it all” and the other doesn’t know how to get their fair share.  That is where mediation comes in.  Mediation Services of Adams County has certified volunteer mediators ready, willing and able to provide mediation and conflict resolution services.  Find out more at mediateadams.org or call 717-334-7312.