I've been watching CNN. And I guess we all knew it was true, but I think we Americans just might be the most self-centered people on the planet.
It is terrible what has happened because of hurricane Katrina. Days into the aftermath, people (elderly, babies) are dying because of the conditions. There is no food or water, and I imagine people's supplies of medication are running out. The heat is unbearable. People are stranded with what we might consider their entire lives torn away. No jobs, no schools, no families, no homes. Right now, over twenty thousand people are scrambling to get into packed buses to take them to the Astrodome in Houston. Others of them have started marching en masse up expressways in hopes of finding help -- somewhere. These people need our help, and if we believe in love at all, it is our duty to help. Few people would disagree.
But this is what I find disturbing. As I watch the footage on CNN, I see devastation. I see hopelessness. I see people who now understand so much more about life than most of us. It isn't about our jobs and what we own. They are trying, fighting, and dying in the process to carry on living. This is something we can see because a natural disaster struck our soil. We saw it also when the tsunami hit Asia. And we are moved and we want to help. But the truth is that this thing happens every day in parts of the world we never see. There are people who have lived their entire lives starving. What is admirable is that they keep on living a livelihood that Americans would consider the end of life altogether. But they die, too, while we worry about whether our computer is good enough to get us through the school year or if a bookshelf is big enough to hold all the books we have.
I guess I'm getting at two things. Something about how life is more than what we've got and what we've accomplished. And something about how devastation is every day, not just when CNN decides to cover it. But I think the bottom line is that we refuse (whether we mean to or not) to see beyond ourselves.
I know I can't single-handedly save the world. And I don't even know where to begin to try to help. You know, the thought crosses my mind, What, are we supposed to sell everything we own and give the money away and basically stop living because other people are dying? Part of me says, Of course not. And the other part says, There is more to life than petty things we fret about giving up, things that we think we need.
Maybe we should just live like there are other people in this world besides ourselves. Maybe we could stop worrying about what we want and start considering what someone else needs.
You would be surprised how little we actually need. Consider it. Now imagine if those few tiny things that you need weren't even available to you. That is where so many people in this world are. How selfish am I that I can ignore that? I've done it all my life.
If I learned anything from T. Martell, it is this saying of Plato's that I've taken to quoting frequently. "The unexamined life is not worth living." Maybe I'm taking it out of context, but that statement is so true. How selfish and lifeless (void of true, real, authentic life) is the life of someone (me, for instance) that has never been considered for what it really is. It is just me sitting on top of a pile of weak accomplishments and scavenged goods. Who needs that?
But all this clanging is about so much more than giving everything away. That's not what it's about. The root of it all is in love. I probably sound like a jumbled up mess of John Lennon, "What The World Needs Now is Love," and 1 Corinthians 13, but that's okay. I guess I am.
"There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds." Matthew 6.26
"If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere." 1 Corinthians 13.3