It’s extremely difficult for me to actually be motivated to help someone if meeting their needs has any impact on me doing what I’d like to be doing. Yeah, it’s selfish and cold, but it’s really honest. I’d even say that you’re probably more selfish than you let on when in polite society. Selfishness is such a taboo character trait socially that we’ve all become pretty adept at hiding it. But I’m pretty sure if I- if we- were really as selfless as I’d like people to think I am, then this world would look a whole lot different than it does.
The first part of the selfless problem is that at this point in my life I feel like I’ve got quite a lot to manage. I think about my career, my retirement, my kids’ future prospects. I think about how to get the best deal on my home internet and whether or not I should switch from an iPhone to a Samsung. I have a lot of important things to consider, so I don’t see a lot of space in my life to become too deeply invested in the problems of others- especially those problems which don’t hinder me. And if those problems are more complex then donating some money or making a referral to a professional, then I’m definitely out.
I’ve also reaching a point in my life where I feel like I’ve got a lot to lose. If I become too invested in the problems of others, will that have a negative impact on my own future prospects? If I’m too interested in or outspoken about the rights of people who are different than me, will the people I depend on for my security be less interested in my security? More to the point, if I make a big deal about finding solutions to the problems of people who are different than me, will I create problems for myself by creating a more competitive environment? I really don’t want the opportunity of others to come at the cost of my own opportunity. Side note, I tried to delete those last two sentences twice, but I’m convinced they’re some of the most transparent statements I’ve ever articulated publicly. For that reason alone, I’m compelled to leave them.
My general solution to all of this is to just not care too much or too personally about the people who face different problems than me, or the people who face problems because they look different than me. But this is getting harder and harder to do. I’m starting to care about too many people. I’m beginning to see the pure humanity in the people who don’t look anything like me. I’m starting to feel the weight of the problems I’ve never faced that are encountered every day by people who look different than me.
In spite of my careful differentiation and distancing from “them” I’m beginning to become infected by a real sense of compassion for people. Part of me continues to try and fight off this feeling of empathy, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult because I see the faces of children that are the same age as my children and I wonder why things should be more difficult for them than for my kids.
I’ve nearly come to the point where I have to admit that the problems “they” face are the problems I face. Even if I could engineer my life in such a way as to avoid those problems, because I’m a human, created in the image of God, I have to face the problems in solidarity with people of all colors, races, languages and religions. Sure, there are some bad eggs out there. But there are some bad eggs already in here.
I’m not advocating a political solution- I’m mostly disillusioned with the whole political arena. I’m advocating a human solution. Who are we investing in? Where are we volunteering at? Are we taking advantage of the power of advocacy? More precisely, I’m advocating a Christian solution. Are we loving our neighbor in ways that honor and reflect the intent of Jesus’ words? Are we practicing hospitality that honors the stranger, or are we just coming up with excuses to decorate and hang out with friends? Are we committing our lives to seeking justice for those who have been trampled on? I guess I’m not even advocating a solution, but I am wondering if this is something for us to think about.