It’s been a while since I last posted, but this article has been sitting on my PC all this time and if I don’t post it now, it will not make much sense to post it at all, so here goes. So far we have looked at the Biblical call to care, we have looked at just a few old testament examples of Carers and I shared a skit about the Good Samaritan, In this post, I intended to highlight the kinds of excuses that people for not helping.
“I do care, but…”
- It’s dangerous. If we consider the Samaritan, one might argue that he was putting himself at risk of attack by helping the man. The thieves might have been waiting for someone to stop to attack him too. The man lying there might have been a trap. Sad to say, many modern Good Samaritans have fallen prey to this ploy. While I would always advise us to be cautious when we see someone in danger, such as a person drowning, there are times when you will be stirred to take drastic action to help a fellow human being, at great personal risk. If you really care, you will not shrug your shoulders and pretend you can do nothing, but will do what you can to help.
- It’s their own fault. Let’s face it; most predicaments that we find ourselves in are due to our own fault. We have been negligent or taken unnecessary risks. We were driving too fast, or we were overly tired, or we had had one too many, before embarking on our journey. We did not check our tyres had enough tread, etc. People who use this excuse conveniently forget that they too have done things that they’ve regretted later. The fact is, it’s not our place, to analyse why the situation exists but to help the affected people to the best of our ability.
I was thinking about prison ministries: a less deserving group of people, one can hardly think of - unless one remembers that in many countries there are prisoners of conscience, as well as people who have been wrongfully convicted and people awaiting trial. But whether they are there because justice has been served, or because of an injustice, these people are in prison. I don’t believe it is our place to judge these people. Jesus spoke in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25) and said to those who he designated sheep, “You saw I was in prison and you visited me.” We will not be able to reach out and help these people unless we are willing to get beyond our prejudices and see that they are people too. The law does not say, Love your neighbour, unless he’s in prison. I could say the same thing about prejudice and misconception with regard to people suffering with HIV/AIDS.
Compassion does not say, “See, I told you so!” or “It’s your own fault, you should have been more careful.”
It says, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad time. Is there anything I can do to help?”
I didn’t know.
If this were the case every time, then, I would not be able to argue against this, but many choose not to know. They either pretend that they don’t know, or deliberately avoid looking. We use the idiom, to turn a blind eye, meaning we deliberately choose to overlook something that is wrong. With the murders of the five prostitutes in Suffolk, the police investigating the murders received many calls giving them information. One of the girls, was found within feet of a roadside. A few days after they found her body, a caller phoned in to say that he had seen the body a few days before but had thought it was a discarded manikin. This astounded me: The person should have realised that it was a strange thing to be discarded by the roadside, and on closer examination, would have realised that it was not a manikin, but a woman. I do believe that by the time he saw the “manikin,” there were public announcements about woman having gone missing in the area, and that should have made him think again. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that that person chose to turn a blind eye (and explain away what he saw) because he did not want to get involved. I wonder what difference it would have made had he called the police on the day he saw “the manikin”?
There is an advert on TV that I find very provoking: It features a single mother with two children. In the background, they play the song, “She works hard for her money.” They show this woman sending her children off to school, and then boarding a bus. You realise she is blind. She gets off the bus, stands on a corner and pulls a sign out of her bag that reads “Help. Mother of two children” She is begging on the street corner. Then a statement put on the screen about how many blind people cannot find work and the last statement is what hits home. It says, “… because YOU are blind.” Disabled people can be productive and useful people to have on the staff, but it means that employers need to give them a chance. It means that they may have to spend some money in setting up the necessary supports, to make employment of a disabled person. It may affect the bottom line in the short run, but I believe, that it will not be a permanent situation, and every dollar or rand spent will be worth it. It is time we stopped looking at disabled people and seeing what they cannot do, but let us see that they too are people and there is a lot that they CAN do, if given the chance. There are of course jobs that their disability would disqualify them from, but, the probability is that they would not apply for such jobs. People with disabilities need to prove that they are qualified to the work just as any other person applying for work has to do, but the reality is that many of them have to prove a lot more before they are even considered. As Christians, we need to see beyond the disability and see the person.
You can’t help them all??
This must be one of the most inane and irritating excuses. Of course you can’t help them all, but you can help someone. There is a well known modern day parable about child throwing starfish into the water at the seaside. Another person comes along and asks the child what he/she is doing. When the child explains that these starfish will die because they are stranded on the beach, the person says, but there are so many, you’d never be able to help them all. The child bends over picks up another starfish and throwing it into the water, says, “I just helped that one!”
There will always be people who are better off or worse of than we are. See who you can help today.
Through writing this blog on caring, I have realised that there are so many areas in which we can care for other people. We need to stop looking for cop-outs and be ready to touch the lives of the people around us. I’d like to conclude with a quote from a devotional by J.C. Ryle:
“What are we doing, each in his own sphere, to prove that this mighty parable is one of the rules of our daily lives? What are we doing for the heathen at home and abroad? What are we doing to help those who are troubled in mind, body and estate? There are many such in our world all around us. What are we doing for them? Anything or nothing at all?”[i]
[i] Ryle J. C. (Compiled by Sheehan R. J.) Daily Readings from all four Gospels: For Morning and Evening, 1998, Evangelical Press, Darlington, UK. (Taken from the reading for 4 August – Morning.