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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

helping others.

I was at dinner yesterday with a family, and when talking about my plans for the UNHCR, was asked by a boy quite nonchalantly, and jocularly, "You want to help others? But why? Who wants to do that?" Perhaps the question was rudimentary, but it got me thinking. Why do we help others? Why do I help others? 

Well, it's this wonderful, old-fashioned idea that others are more important than you. That others simply matter in general - no matter who they are. Is it so abnormal to wish the best for others, especially those in countries much less fortunate than our own? I love people. There is something enchanting about a human being; the fact that there are 7 billion people worldwide and yet they are all so incredibly different is miraculous. So unique and also much the same. We are quite the paradox because we were crafted by quite the Creator. The way we look, sense, feel, respond, generate, think, compile....being so different is almost magical. Everyone grows up differently, with numerous experiences, countless impactors and a myriad of influences that make us who we are. Everyone has their own special story - never told before, until they speak it themselves or act it out. Everyone also has their own struggle, their own hurt, their own sorrow. I've always loved written biographies and movies based on true events and lives. They aren't fiction; real people lived and breathed out beautiful lives and stories. By reading or seeing them, you are almost able to live through them vicariously just by being a bystander. 

But this makes me think of all the people who aren't Corrie ten Boom's, who aren't Anne Frank's, Mark Twain's, Helen Keller's, or Frederick Douglass'....or any person who was great in some way, yet wasn't somehow noted. The woman in Russia who works four jobs to support her family in the slums; the Tutsi man in Africa who takes care of a Hutu girl who's lost her family after the Rwandan genocide; the boy who stands up to bullies in an English preparatory school to rescue a classmate from being beaten. We don't hear those stories, but if we do, the media milks it until it becomes an overrated, under appreciated headline that's easily forgotten. How many other countless stories have we not heard about the concentration camps and those who persevered through them? About Jewish persecution during WWII and those who stayed strong in the midst? About fathers who have lost their wives and children yet manage to go on living life? About deaf or blind people and how they live? Or about authentic slavery and how costing it was on African Americans?

Each day is full of heroic deeds and heartfelt actions that so many of us miss out on. Humans, whether noted or not, are precious and should be handled with love and care, as cliche as that might sound. Much too often, unkind words are said without thought, uncalculated actions are made that hurt feelings, and everyday people bruise easily. Of course, it is a fallen world, but that doesn't give excuse to be raw towards others. Rather it should encourage us all the more to be uplifting in the way we treat others. Even if someone doesn't respect you, could you respect yourself if you treated them disrespectfully just because of that? I think most the time we do not see the beauty in others because we do not understand them, and no one likes anything less than being misunderstood. But how can you not see it?! How can you not see their warm eyes? Sensitive hands? Enthusiasm for what they love doing? The spring in their step? Life in their very being? People are deep and relational, and this, among many other things, is what I love most dearly about them. Is that not reason enough for wanting to help them? Because you love them? Were it just for one of the above reasons, I would help them. People are always in need of aid, so why hesitate to give it freely when it is so easily appreciated? When we help, we connect and the part of you that is "I" becomes "we". Isn't that grand? You become apart of something and someone much bigger than yourself, than your world, and your opinion, and your importance. It is called compassion. It is that part of you that sees another in need and wishes to quell that need or suffering. The word compassion itself comes from a Latin word meaning to "co-suffer" or "share suffering". It is an active desire to alleviate anothers pain. And we would not be human did we not have this emotion. So why help others? I can answer that much better for myself than for others...so my answer? Because I love people. I love others, and I can't bear to watch them suffer when I can provide myself for them. Is this not the Golden Rule? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" ? (Matthew 7:12) Is it not also the greatest commandment? 

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' " (Matthew 22:37-40)

For loving others is loving Him. Helping others is acting out love. So let me help others all the more if it means loving my God all the more.