My fight or flight instinct has kicked in – I have no desire to read all the diatribes zipping across Facebook regarding the happenings in D.C. Love you guys. Mean it. But the fact is that every one of us, on every side of every issue, is just as convinced as the ones on the other side that their side is right. I’m as passionate as you, but chances are we’ll never, ever, convince each other to come around to our way of thinking.
You know what? There’s an issue, that’s bigger than whatever the issue du jour may be. There’s an issue that is honestly at the root of all the rest of them. There’s a big truth and this is it: there is not a program out there that will fix us.
I know, it’s shocking.
There’s one thing that would make the difference in this world that we’re all waiting for someone else to make. And it has nothing to do with any program, government or otherwise. It’s not Extreme Makeover fixing up a house or Secret Millionaire helping a worthwhile organization. It’s this crazy, antiquated idea of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You know, “do unto others,” and all that. (sidenote: this man called Jesus is the Author of those ideas. He’s incredible and loves you and me beyond belief. But that’s another, albeit related, note.)
I’m not talking about tossing your spare change in the red kettle at Christmas time. I’m not talking about sending a donation to the American Cancer Society, Feed the Children, the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity or any other organization. I’m not talking about an extra tax-deduction. I’m talking about your own backyard. And mine. I’m talking about the “issues” under all our noses…
We live down the street from a single parent working two jobs just to get the ends close. Making ends meet is beyond their imagination at this point in their lives. That mom or dad is just praying their kid doesn’t get sick, because their co-pay just jumped up. Again. We walk right past him on the first day of school when he’s looking at the school supplies list, shaking his head. We don’t give her a thought while we’re at the mall buying our kid their Under Armour gym clothes, North Face jacket and the latest pair of $90 running shoes. Meanwhile, she’s at the dollar store, just hoping she can fit the glue sticks, gym shoes, pencils, headphones and pack of facial tissues that are on the list into an already over-stretched budget.
I’m talking about the little old lady we barely notice at the pharmacy. She’s saying something to the cashier about, “…but when did the price go up so much?” Before we can process a thought, by a lucky chance, we’re distracted by the sign advertising t-bone steaks for 8 bucks a pound and we’re thinking, “Oh! That would be such a great back to school celebration dinner for the family!”
How dare we claim that we care? How dare we say that we’re concerned for others? How dare we think we have any right to preach to others about how we need to take care of the less fortunate in the country and world, when we won’t even take the time to help the people who are right in front of us every day?
If we can buy our kid the latest ridiculously over-priced shoes that all the kids just “have to have,” then by all that is right, we can quietly put a little box filled with glue sticks and pencils and Kleenex on our neighbor’s front porch. If we can feed our family steak on a regular basis, then we can stop by the pharmacy and ask if there’s a way we can put 10 bucks on that little old lady’s account for the next time she comes in.
I love dressing my kid in cute stuff. I love steak. There’s nothing wrong with those things. What IS wrong is the fact that we are unwilling to take our eyes off ourselves for 30 seconds and look around.
I’m not a wide-eyed optimist. I’m a realist, believe it or not. I know there will never be world peace any more than there is any chance that we’ll ever all love each other the way we should. But I also know that if we really did care, if we ever noticed the needs around us AND DID WHAT WE COULD TO MEET THOSE NEEDS, we would make a difference for someone.
I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m just as wrapped up in my own life, my own budget, my own bills and day to day “stuff,” that I forget to look around and see what I can do to make someone’s life better. Everyone of us has the means to help someone. And if enough people did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about depending on some program to fix it all. I know that isn’t going to be the case. I have no desire to gather in a circle, hold your hand and sing “We Are the World.” (Honestly, I loathe that song.) But I believe with all my heart that every single one of us who is too wrapped up in ourselves to notice the needs around us are the very ones responsible for a whole lot of the hurt in the world. And no program, no charity, no leader is going to fix that. I know we can’t fix all that is wrong in the world. But if I open my eyes, if I take a minute to really SEE, I can use what I have to make a difference on my own street.
But will I?