As a student studying in Berlin for the year, I’m fighting that tired stereotype Europeans hold of the United States of America: that Americans are heartless and lack compassion. They point to our cutthroat capitalist system as well as our failure to guarantee a more equitable distribution of our nation’s wealth. They also bring up the disregard we show for the natural environment. One even mentioned our propensity to resort to violence, both domestically with our high incidence of gun-related crimes and internationally with our notion of foreign intervention.
But this stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. The United States gives literally tens of billions of dollars a year to starving children and people with AIDS all over the world. Similarly, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other billionaire philanthropists graciously donate up to two percent of their net worth to equally worthy causes abroad. It is clear that Americans are undoubtedly one of the most compassionate groups of people on earth. I, of course, am no different. Now, I haven’t made my first billion yet, so therefore I cannot yet start my own foundation aimed at fixing infants’ cleft lips, but I am studying abroad and therefore I feel like it’s my duty to represent my country well by giving a little something back, as an example of upper class American compassion. By giving something back, I’m not only helping people in need. More importantly, I feel better about myself while simultaneously combating a baseless stereotype of Americans.
While some people volunteer at soup kitchens, I give back to the people by drinking beer from liquor stores. Hear me out: In Berlin, you can return beer bottles and other glass products to a recycling center and receive some money in return for your effort. As soon as I heard that, my whole outlook changed – from that point forward, it was all about the homeless for me. With the knowledge that homeless people could derive a livelihood from my drinking, I stopped my selfish habit of simply placing my empty bottles in the trash can; I now prefer flinging them into bushes that homeless people must eventually sleep in, or setting them down right after I chug them on street corners, in order to save them some searching. I imagine as a sort of homeless treasure hunt, all facilitated by my heartfelt generosity. Sometimes I’ll be seized with such a fit of compassion that I will drink way more than is physically healthy. I sacrifice my body for the needy – that’s how much I care about them.
Whenever I’m sitting in class with a head-splitting hangover from 10 glass bottles of beer, the vision that always comes to my mind invariably helps soothe the pain. In my vision, an old homeless man or crack-addled high school dropout is crawling his way along the sidewalk; maybe he wants a bit of food, or maybe he just wants some heroin to dull the pain of the harsh life he leads. He’s crawling along, praying to God to turn things around for him, or that some more-fortunate person is too lazy to pick up the two-cent coin he dropped. After nearly getting run over crawling across the street, he eventually comes across a collection of four empty German Pilsner bottles. His eyes light up. Eight cents per bottle. Cha-ching! You’re welcome, guys. Your cigarettes are on me today.
Giving back – that’s the real reason I drink privately brewed, light German beer.