Biology, psychology, sociology, and personal experience all suggest that we, as human beings, have limited capacity to "care" about those far off. Anyone outside our tribe - people who aren't like us. We're wired to care deeply about people like our own children, and considerably less (if at all) about the children of strangers or enemies. Yet these days we hear a lot about those "far away." And I can't believe (as some Buddhists do) that pulling out and not letting the sufferings of others touch us is a noble path.
So as a mission mobilizer, I've been wondering how to respond to this limitation/tension. To just say "bloom where you are planted" and "just take care of your own" are not an adequate response, not with our current level of global connectedness. Nor in terms of embracing Christ's command to love one's neighbor. Obviously you can't love more than six billion people the same, but we've got a world with a lot of people being "under-loved" in all kinds of ways. So, I'm not going to give up. Will keep calling people to care, to pray, to give, to go.
Peace to Those Near
My roommate had jury duty this week. It was a domestic violence case. The state was bringing misdemeanor charges against a woman, S., on behalf of her ex-husband. It was D.'s job, I guess, to sit in for the 750,000 of us in district 18 and hear the story of this broken family, and, with the other five "ladies of the jury" (yes, all women) to judge whether S. was guilty of harassment and criminal mischief (vandalism).
After the case was over D. was able to tell me about it. A pretty sad story. The guy and his new ladylove - both of them, it seemed to D., utter jerks - did something that really angered S. After going to her ex's place for an unsatisfactory verbal confrontation with him about that matter, S. "lost it," and (the jury convicted her on this count) threw a large rock at his SUV, breaking the window.
D. thinks S. still cares about this guy, and what really frustrated her was that she lost him, that he wronged her (e.g., the affair with the girlfriend), that he continues to wrong her (being very inconsiderate in a matter considering their teenaged daughter), and is never going to admit it and/or apologize for doing anything wrong.
What the poor woman needs is a clear-sighted and loving counselor and some anger management lessons, for starters. What the man needs - well, I might have suggested a really big rock through the window of his SUV. But I guess that's not right. At any rate, it didn't work, did it?
Peace to Those Far Away
Here's an opportunity to respond to "those far away." There are, I admit, a few "hooks" in this one for me. First, that it came from a wonderful family I know who serve in Tajikistan (see map), and, second, that my mother nearly died of polio when she was a baby and still suffers the effects of it:
"We are currently in the middle of a polio outbreak in Tajikistan. At the end of April more than 170 kids had been hospitalized with paralysis and 12 had already died. According to WHO statistics approximately 50% of polio survivors are left with a permanent disability. Factors like malnutrition can make the percentage higher. It is quite horrible to think about the implications of this for Tajikistan. UNICEF has donated large quantities of polio vaccine and the government has started a huge vaccination campaign among children aged under 5. Please pray that this will work and the polio epidemic will be brought under control quickly."So much sadness in the world. So much contention. Nearby, and far away. I'm glad there is someone we can talk to about this for whom nearby and faraway are the same thing - yeah, the one who calls the stars each by name and has numbered the very hairs of our heads.
Will you pray? Thanks.
Map source: Wikipedia