World Humanitarian Day falls on August 19th, in recognition of the day in 2003 when 22 aid workers were killed in a bombing at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. It is a day to commemorate all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world.
The word “humanitarian”, when used as an adjective, can range in definition from “pertaining to the saving of human lives or to the alleviation of suffering” to “having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people”. As a noun, the word “humanitarian” can be defined as simply as “a person who works to make other people’s lives better”. The latter is a definition that can virtually be used interchangeably with the word “volunteerism” and that is how I view the hundreds of people who dedicate their time and energy to the provision of services to our local seniors and adults with physical disabilities. The frail, isolated, elderly person eagerly awaiting their delivery of a nutritious hot meal by a smiling volunteer would certainly view that work as “humanitarian”.
Speaking of humanitarian, I received this story from a friend in Vancouver, and while I cannot find an original author to credit, I wanted to share it.
I sat with my friend in a well-known, upscale coffee shop in a neighbouring town of Venice (Italy) the city of lights and water. As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us. He called the waiter and placed his order saying, “Two cups of coffee, one of them on the wall.”
We heard this order with rather interest and observed that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two. As soon as he left, the waiter taped a piece of paper on the wall saying ‘A Cup of Coffee’.
While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had the two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he taped a piece of paper on the wall saying, ‘A Cup of Coffee’. It was something unique and perplexing for us. We finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.
After a few days, we had a chance to go to this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a poorly dressed man entered. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, “One cup of coffee from the wall please”. The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this, as the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the dust bin. Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear.
The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town made our eyes well up in tears. Ponder upon the need of what this man wanted… he enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem … he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee … he only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.