At Your Service: Nov. 18, 2009

Just as I was sitting to write this column, an eight-point buck bounded into my yard. He stood less than 50 feet from my door; his rack arched up and back as he surveyed the territory. After deeming it secure, he snapped the ends off low lying branches, munched on the high grasses and flox in my garden and made a small parade of himself. Then, as quickly as he had come, he was scared away by the feral tabby tomcat that had previously claimed this land.
The tom was not deterred in the least by the tower of masculine strength presented by the buck; he took his killer stance and let forth a ferocious hiss. As the buck scampered away, the tabby climbed up on the picnic table and, head high, scanned the land. It was the first time I had ever seen him on the table; I couldn’t help but chuckle as his head now approximated the height of his foe.
I was reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Abraham Maslow, a motivational psychologist, posited that a hierarchy of needs determines our actions. He basically said that each lower need must be met before we are capable of moving to the next higher level and that those lower needs must be met on an on-going basis. At the bottom of the hierarchy lie the biological and physical needs all animals share for air, water, food, shelter, sex, etc. We humans cannot obtain all of these without also gathering some money to pay for them.
Only when the belly is full are we capable of entertaining thoughts of security (next up on Maslow’s chart) and the place where laws and rules reside. Had the buck been closer to starvation, he would not have yielded the territory so quickly. The well-fed and secure animal can then seek the need for belonging and love. Most people believe that only we humans are capable of rising to the still higher levels of need for esteem, actualization and transcendence.
The reality of this hierarchy of needs becomes apparent when we notice how many people are struggling to feed, clothe and keep a roof above their family. It is very hard to be loving or have healthy self-esteem when we are wondering about the next meal or doubtful that we will be warm in the coming winter. Fear can keep us on the lowest level of concern when our income (or other capacity to meet our basic needs) is threatened.
It reminds us that we are all nothing more than animals at core and why faith and belief enable us to rise above our more basic needs. When we believe that we can provide for our own needs, we are able to see the needs of our neighbors and share what we have. Our faith, whether it is rooted in a belief in God or in our sense of self, makes it possible to reach out our arms to embrace others.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, my appreciation for this little corner of the world deepens. A majority of those who reside here live on the edge of having their basic needs met. Yet, there is a prevailing generosity of spirit that keeps the fire and emergency trucks running and endows the Community Christmas Projects, hospital and arts organizations.
The buck may still need to fear for his life (hunting season opens Saturday, after all) but we have that something special that we share that makes us community.
Don’t forget to vote in the Catskill Best Service Awards. The ballot is on page 4B in this issue.