Who do you feel that you’re indebted to? Your family? your friends? a complete stranger? To what extent are we obligated to others? Let me re-orient the question: to what extent are others obligated to you?
It’s easy to go about our daily lives considering only ourselves, that is, until the shoe is on the other foot. For instance, consider the homeless man you may walk by every day on your way to work. You clearly see he is in need of something, be it a meal, a pair of shoes, or a few hygiene products. He may not ask you for anything, but the writing is written on his appearance and situation that he’s in need.
Now imagine yourself walking past the homeless man thinking, “He has arms and legs to get a job!” Then one day you’re late to work and make a risky choice to cross a frozen pond. The ice gives way and in a blink you’re drifting under the ice in hypothermic water. The homeless person sees you and you see him. Should he help you or continue on his way? No need to answer.
I remember taking a culinary arts baking course at Lake Washington Technical College and the program facilitator broached the topic of helping people who panhandle in the streets. He said he doesn’t give anyone money because he once gave someone money for food and seen the person come out of the store with alcohol. A fellow culinary student sought clarification, “You wouldn’t help anyone?” “Nope,” he replied. She then explained that she was once homeless with kids and used to panhandle to feed them. The facilitator tried to retract his comment.
His desire to control whether his generosity was received by one sincerely in need prevented him from helping those were actually in need. It would have been better for him to adopt the view that it is better to risk being duped by 10 panhandling scammers than to miss one opportunity to feed a hungry family. Even though we are not gifted with the art of clairvoyance, we do possess the capacity of generosity. Similarly, it is better to release 10 guilty people than to imprison one innocent man.
These situations shine a light into our hearts, who we are and our feelings toward people in general. In our view of others, we’d be wise to consider what our purpose is in relation to those less fortunate, especially since life could have dealt us their hand. You could have just as easily been the homeless person or the panhandler, perhaps far away from home and without family support.
Is our purpose–as the more fortunate–to help the less fortunate? Does their need complement our own need to be benevolent toward our fellow man and woman? Are our blessings better spent on the “needs” of others or on our “needless” pleasures? That depends on who you consider yourself indebted to: yourself or all.
I leave you with this Scripture to ponder:
He [God] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you
love those who love you, what reward will you get? ….
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
–Matthew 5:45-46, 48 (Holy Bible)
Categories: Jacob J. Gamet