I wanted to rant about an experience I recently had, but try as I might, I cannot do it justice because I am bound by the necessity of maintaining confidences. I can only speak to it in the most general terms.
As much as we value diversity, the average person in our society rarely operates outside of his/her established social circle except in situations for which society has well defined interfaces. I might, for example, briefly interact with a maid at a hotel or a server at a restaurant, but I do not deal with the realities of those people’s lives.
Most of us live in neighborhoods surrounded by others that are similar to us in social standing. Occasionally we purposefully step outside of our comfort zone to benevolently help someone that we perceive to be of a lower social order. But I find that we often feel very uncomfortable when circumstances force us to deal with such a person on a close basis.
A couple of weeks ago I was a parent volunteer on a field trip for my son’s Kindergarten class. We put the kids through a lot of physical activities. One little girl told me she was so tuckered out that she wanted to go home and lie down, but said that she couldn’t because nobody was home—because her dad had gone to get her mom out of jail. I felt like somebody had punched me in the gut. No little kid should have to deal with that kind of baggage. I wondered what I should do, if anything.
I recently found myself in a gathering with people that purport to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Pretty much everyone present shared a similar social status. I was shocked at the attitudes this group displayed with regard to some people of a lower social status that have some serious problems. I was dismayed by some of my own thoughts on the matter.
There was a very libertarian air that these people deserved to lie in the beds they had made for themselves. We could piously pass by them on the road to Jericho. One person present, almost embarrassed to do so, made a quiet neutral-sounding one-sentence comment that caused everyone present to quickly reassess his/her feelings on the matter.
I should make it clear that this occurred in a volunteer group. I am generally opposed to government social programs that exacerbate the problems they are designed to solve, that create worse problems than the ones being addressed, or that absolve individuals of responsibility. But this was a group of Christians that have the ability to actually make a difference in the lives of others.
I feel like each of us that was there that day needs to really ponder the Savior’s teaching in Matthew 25:31-46.