We make choices every day: red shirt or blue shirt, jeans or dress pants, what to have for breakfast, etc. These choices are pretty mundane, and don’t have a lot of impact on us or anyone else (unless your red shirt really does have super powers – where did you get that, by the way?). But there’s a whole other set of choices we each make every day that can have a large scale effect on our world: we can choose how present we will be for each other – opening the door for others, assisting an elderly person at the grocery store (or anywhere, really), greeting people, and embodying a general willingness to be available if needed.
I’ve always been fascinated by a couple of places in the world called Blue Zones: areas of the world where people live longer (12+ years longer than average, by the way), healthier, and happier lives. One of the factors that drives a Blue Zone is pretty simple: a strong community. People look out for one another.
I fear that our society is driving us further and further from this concept, and we have to turn that around in order to live our best lives.
The trend in this country right now seems to be the rather ugly pull of “everyone for themselves,” and a lack of care for situations that may happen to others. In recent days, I’ve heard more than one adult refer to other people in a “who cares?” tone, alluding to the idea that its not our business or our responsibility to look out for others. It’s almost as if the folks saying this stuff would prefer to live in a vacuum.
There are people who would rather sit back and take advantage of others’ generosity than contribute to the general good of society. But I don’t get to judge that; there are plenty of people in our communities who need the presence of someone who can offer his or her care. Some community members have lost their way, their drive, and/or their dignity. Still others are mentally ill, and can barely get up in the morning. People live, work, worship and breathe in designated towns, subdivisions, city blocks – but our connections with each other are becoming more and more distant. I have witnessed people falling down in crowded areas, only to have others walk right over them instead of rushing to their aid. I have watched older folks load up their own groceries, slowly and struggling, while others avert their eyes and get on with their business. We are losing our human connection to one another, and with that, we are becoming self-imposed islands that cannot be easily bridged.
My husband and I have made intentional steps to make sure we are walking our talk. But I’m not writing this blog to crow about my virtuous and nosy nature, and I am not discussing politics right now (although there certainly are shades of this trend in our nation’s current political climate). I’m both sad and unsettled to see our self-centered society modeling a selfish and “me” centered world for students and children. While it’s fantastic to teach children to “give to others,” we must embolden ourselves and our children to give more generously of our time, our presence, and our help. We have to understand that people need each other, and that we need to draw on each others’ strength. This isn’t easy. There’s a lot of fear involved, especially the fear of getting into someone’s business. However, I would offer this – if you were in need, and eyes were averted, would that help or hinder you?
We need to be each others’ “folks,” so that we can know that, if we happen to fall, we will be lifted up, not trampled. We have to (always!) be on the lookout for opportunities to reach out and offer ourselves. And we have to have confidence that our kindness will be received.