Good evening, Mister Papa Bear.
First of all... Thank you, thank you, thank you for running this site! It means a world to a bunch of people, not to mention that you're selflessly trying to help others... I love you, Papa Bear.
I'll ask straight away - why do people suffer, Papa Bear :'(? Why is there so MUCH sadness, guilt, resent and discrimination? I'm naturally a very happy, positive person and also very much empathetic and compassionate, so, why? I'm doing my best to make other people feel more welcome and comfortable but it doesn't seem to work, and it bothers me, I'm not going to lie. It makes ME feel guilty for not being able to help someone in need.
I firmly believe that there's someone out there for everyone and that life is truly a blessing and a gift, but many people seem to not share the same beliefs. Sometimes, I'm unsure. Why do so many people go through life alone... rejected, bullied and discriminated all due to appearance and social status? Depressed, anxious and mentally unwell?
I'm very physically attractive and overall kind and compassionate, so I'm showered with attention (both wanted and unwanted) on a daily basis, while others to through months and even years without any positive attention at all. Why???
There's this guy in class I really like... He's shy, anxious, quiet and depressed but is still an overall kind soul. I like shy guys but they don't seem to like me due to my extroversion. He's also a curry, which makes things a lot better. I want to talk to him and get to know him better, but he's too damaged to reciprocate. He's often bullied and ridiculed. Oh, how i wish to help him, but I can't. Why is he tortured? Why is anyone tortured? Not only him, I want to help a lot of other people feel better on a daily basis, regardless of age, appearance and social status. Everyone deserves to be happy, because people are beautiful. Even the nasty ones...
Why does my optimism fail? What am I doing wrong? I want to help them, but I can't help them all...
It makes me so, so sad, I cannot express my sadness through text or words...
You should understand what I'm saying... Help me, Papa Bear, so that I'm able to help others.
Call me naive, but this is what my heart desires.
What should I do :(?
Caramel (age 16)
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First of all, I am blushing. You're very kind.
Gosh, those are HUGE questions you are asking, the kinds of questions philosophers have been asking since ancient Greece or before. Why do people suffer? What can I do to help them? Why can't people get along?
Basically, three questions. I try to limit letters to one, but will do my best to concisely answer you.
#1 Why do people suffer? There are two fundamental reasons for this: either they bring it upon themselves, or fate deals them a bad hand. The first one is easier to address. Many people suffer because their priorities are incorrect. They think success is defined by fame and fortune, and when they cannot get these things, they feel miserable. The answer is simply to aim for goals that are more compassionate and less materialistic. But that's not really what you are asking. You're asking why do good people suffer? There are a couple explanations for that, too.
The first is that there is suffering so that people who are not suffering can learn compassion. For example, a family who has a child with a horrible disease that means they need constant care and medical treatment. You might think this is a terrible burden on the family. Well, it is very stressful and hard, yes, but it also teaches us to care for others not matter the cost. This is a valuable spiritual lesson, one that not only can help a family grow, but an entire community. How many times have you seen stories where a family is in desperate need because of a sick child, and they reach out to their community and a flood of help comes to their aid? Sometimes, remarkable things happen, such as perfect strangers donating an organ to save a life. Such challenges can show the true, deeper spirit of humanity. Thus, a profoundly ill or disabled child is not living a wasted life because they serve as a focal point for teaching all of us what real love is.
Another reason is that we live in an existence of black and white, yin and yang. You cannot have light without the darkness. You cannot understand love if there is no hate. You cannot appreciate joy if you have never known sorrow. Our life here on this tiny blue marble is a training ground of our souls. We are here to experience these things so that we may grow spiritually. This is something that would be impossible if we all lived in paradise and faced no challenges. We are here to learn.
Perhaps less dramatic, but no less significant, is your classmate, who is an example of the former reason for suffering. There could be many reasons why he is shy, depressed, anxious, ranging from medical and emotional reasons to his living situation at home. You don't know. So, here we have another test of your humanity. This brings us to....
#2 How can I help others who are suffering? An important lesson I've learned in life is that one can only do so much. Sometimes, it is difficult to see all the misery going on in the world and not be able to do anything about it. I've often come across people in my life who are just too far gone to help--or who flatly refuse my help. The key is not to feel guilty that you can't always help. You're only one furry. When it comes to someone like your classmate, I suggest the open-door approach. This is when you make yourself available and welcoming to him without forcing him to do anything. For example, organize a little furmeet or other fun activity and extend an invitation to him. Make it fun by inviting people with a nice card with a written message inside. Another possibility is a movie. One thing about movies is that you can socialize a little before the film, but during the movie everyone is quiet and this affords a little break for him from any anxiety of being with others. Make these small gatherings so that he is not overwhelmed. During these little get togethers, make sure that you and any others who attend are completely accepting of him, do not judge him, and, most importantly, don't make him feel like a charity case. Just be very informal, have small talk, talk about things you like. Do not try to "fix him."
And don't be disappointed if he refuses. But, keep extending invitations on occasion. Perhaps, one day, he will accept. If not, you did what you could.
#3 Why can't people get along? Much of this stems from our long evolutionary background. When things were much more wild, life was constant competition for things like food and mates and territory. Despite becoming "civilized," we haven't truly evolved, for the most part. (However, I am encouraged to see an increasing number of spiritually evolving people who truly understand what life is about). Hence, everyone is in competition, and everyone who seems different (or more successful) is seen as a potential threat. This is the very basis of capitalism, which is why capitalism is doomed to implode one day: it is an unevolved economic philosophy. As Mr. Big says in Zootopia, "My child, we may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals."
You are one of the good ones, Caramel. Never lose sight of your compassion, but be careful not to allow yourself to become overwhelmed or consumed by other people's misery (don't forget your own happiness!) There are over 7 billion people on Earth, and we, as individuals, can only do so much. But that's okay. Your mere presence in the world makes it a better place.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.