Caring for our Communities
The poet John Donne wrote,
"No man is an island, entire of itself every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."
And so it is. Many of us fancy ourselves as independent, self made people. We don’t think of ourselves as selfish, and to a great extent many of us aren’t. But we do identify with competitiveness and (More than we may want to admit) taking care of “Number One.” As such, many of us resent any assertion that our society needs us and we them, and that we ought to rise to the needs of our communities. But this is an illusion. None of us would be where we are apart from the selfless giving of others in our lives—parents, teachers, public officials and lawmakers who created policies we benefit from, employers, and more. The healthiest of us have rich support networks of friends, mentors, and loved ones without whom we would be lost in a barren, dark night of the soul.
One of the most beautiful, and misunderstood paradoxes of love is that it thrives best in our own hearts when it’s given away. As Jesus put it,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
- Luke 6:38
We’ve all seen it before. People who carefully, at times vociferously guard their wealth and a long list of perceived “rights”, yet somehow seem poorer for it in every sense that matters. Then there are others whose lives overflow with selfless charity—even to a degree that seems reckless—yet they are fountains of life and joy to everyone they meet. Truly, if we cling to our lives we will lose them, but if we “lose” them, we find them (Mt 10:39).
It’s been said that the character of a community is revealed best in how it treats its children, its elderly, its sick, and its poor. Truer words have seldom been spoken. There are those who dismiss social justice as a “liberal,” big-government boondoggle. It is true that government can be big, and some can and do take advantage of that. But I have yet to meet anyone who preaches from that pulpit who leads a life of love and compassion—at least not in any sense I could see.
These pages address a number of issues that confront our society, bringing with them suffering and injustice in many forms many times repeated around the world. All are issues that each of us can confront individually in our own lives and in our votes. And sadly, all are issues that are easily dismissed by those who would rather not be responsible for them. It’s my hope that these pages will promote solutions and serve as a wake-up call for all of us.