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Modern people spend HUGE amounts of time looking in the mirror. Am I smart enough? Am I attractive enough? Am I successful enough? Do people like me?
Who cares? Really, who cares about you as much as you do? But our society insists we must seize control, win the prize, suck up admiration. We fawn over celebrities. Our reality shows—maybe most of our media events—are all about winning and besting the competitors. We elected to our nation’s highest position (or so we were told; the details are suspicious) a man who is a poster child for greedy self-worship.
But Hurricane Harvey inspired many to put down their mirrors. Suddenly the hypocrites exposed themselves by caring more about image, property, or dignity than their fellow man. Some who called themselves followers of Christ pointed fingers and locked doors. Some gushed with sympathy—from a distance. Others—including a man who had dedicated his life to being a good businessman and members of a religion that was being viciously vilified—opened their doors wide. People who had been worrying about their bills and their jobs stopped worrying and took their boats to the Houston area to save lives. Neighboring countries—including the one we had accused of being filled with rapists and felons, the one some want to wall off—offered help.
What the sincere helpers learned was reaching out to help is an act of love that also enfolds the helper. When you’re helping someone else, your self-esteem rises. You have purpose. You stop fussing over your muscle mass or the whiteness of your teeth and start experiencing what it means to be a contributing member of the family of humankind. You matter. You know for a fact that civilized life is about cooperation and tolerance. You don’t stop to evaluate who you’re saving—color, race, age, religion, gender—you’re simply proud to have saved a human life. You’re acting on the values you always claimed to have.
The intentional dividing of people won’t stop after Harvey, unfortunately. Competition is a cruel master. Those who benefit from fear and hate will drag out stories of the looters and others who took advantage. Excuses for why so-and-so couldn’t do more will fill unethical cyberspace. Those who love to blame will have a heyday. Personally, I’ve stopped listening to them. I have flocks of jays in my yard whose incessant squawking is more pleasant.
When someone is about to die in front of you, it’s easy for a courageous, good-hearted person to know what to do. But helping people whose jeopardy is not in front of you is more difficult. Helping people with problems that might subtract money from your pocket—money you didn’t deliberately donate and won’t be able to claim as a tax deduction—is more difficult. No one will rush to hug your neck and tell you you’re an angel. You’ll have to tell yourself who you are.
The final question is always, Who are you? What kind of person are you? When asked if he was a hero, one rescuer said, “This is what we do.” Is it? Is it what I do? Is it what you do? We have a perpetual chance to demonstrate.