Did you notice that I earlier used the word ‘inundated?’ I know that carries a negative connotation and I used it deliberately. I used it because it is a proper description of how I often feel. I know that I cannot financially help every charity. That isn’t what bothers me though. What really troubles me is how stagnant my reaction is to the suffering of others. It seems that with each image I see or paragraph I read I become more desensitized. I know that children are dying and understand that buying a goat and chickens can help feed a village in a third world country. I am very aware that the large cause of death in the world is lack of access to clean drinking water, but I seem to not feel it anymore. Those images and words that once tugged at my heartstrings seem to do very little these days.
I’m just being honest here, but I seem more concerned with how uncomfortable I feel in cold weather – even with my warm clothes and dry, heated buildings – than I am with the real suffering of others. I easily become obsessed with my distaste for winter and desire for the warmth of summer while there are people dying due to their exposure to the elements. I am no longer ‘distracted’ by people who beg for food because I have become very accustomed to ignoring them. I wonder if I would even send shoebox gifts to financially disadvantaged children if it didn’t make me feel good or serve as a ‘teachable moment’ to my children.
I am an average American. The citizens of this great country provide much to those in need but I wonder if we really care. Are we working in a soup kitchen because we care or because we feel it’s an obligation? Do we give to the Salvation Army because we understand the plight of those they serve or do we just feel guilty when we don’t? If those children we send shoe boxes to were our own, would it make a difference? I think we often have done the right thing but quite possibly not for the right reason. How often have you donated something knowing you could count it as a deduction on your taxes? How often have you gone Christmas shopping and were more concerned about what you were going to buy for yourself or your family than what you were going to provide to someone in need?
I think most Americans are guilty of this but we shouldn’t be. Just because the majority of people are desensitized does not make it a societal mandate. Let’s make a goal together this year. I propose we decide to search our hearts and rekindle the emotions inside our beings. Don’t be afraid to look at the images of the starving children, it’s okay to cry when you realize how desperately they need your help. It’s alright to have compassion; in fact I think it’s necessary. Don’t let this Christmas pass by without taking some time to find love in your heart. When you start to complain about how cold you feel in your winter coat or sitting in your heated leather seat, instead take some time to think about the homeless man or woman who lives in the cold and doesn’t even own a decent pair of shoes. Maybe she wouldn’t be complaining if she were sitting in your place.