A dash of perspective, worldwide horror, and why do we want to be “good”?

I live a pretty blessed life. I am feeling a little exhausted mentally and a little tired physically due to the goings on in my life the last week or so. We just survived 6 elementary school musical performances (in which I volunteered to help wrangle about 100 of the cast for all but 1 performance–I will be telling 6th grade boys to “Shhh!” in my sleep for weeks), the two older girls being off-track (which is just mentally exhausting as I am keeping the Toddler alive and entertained as well as her two big sisters every moment), and now said Toddler has an ear infection (as evidenced by her crankiness and fever of 102). But, I only had to drive about 5 minutes to see a doctor who prescribed antibiotics that were readily available at the on-site pharmacy for my child and then drive home to tuck her into her little bed.

No one in my family is lying crushed under a building in China or digging through the rubble of a cyclone in Myanmar or tornado in the mid-west. And then there’s the story in the paper today that finally brought me to tears. A Polish social worker, who just passed away, is credited for saving almost 3,000 Jewish children from the Nazi regime. This social worker, who was a few years younger than I am at the start of her work, would smuggle children out in boxes, suitcases, and even coffins, sedating babies so they wouldn’t cry as they passed the Nazi guards. She kept their records and tried to get them back to their families after the war, but most of their families had been murdered.

What an amazing body of work–3,000 children. I try to imagine handing Toddler off to someone who is going to try to save her from the atrocity we all know is coming, of watching while my children are taken to relative safety, counting on the kindness of strangers to protect them now that I couldn’t.

Myanmar. China. Missouri. Poland. How many of these lives are saved because of the kindness of strangers? Governments these victims will never have contact with are working to provide for their survival. Non-government organizations and many volunteers and donors will give up things in their own lives to help someone they will never meet. Why? What drives us to reach out to others?

I am of the basic and unpopular opinion (as evidenced by my 11th grade English class where I was the only one who held to this idea) that people are not basically good at heart. Shocking, I know. If I were “good” then “good things” would be easy for me, and the “bad” ones would be hard. However, it takes no effort for me to be selfish or small. In fact, much of my frustration as a mother is in the fact that these precious little people keep bugging me with their needs! (I sit writing this in the clothes I threw on when the nurse call-line had an appointment for my pediatrician in 15 minutes. I am totally grubby and really need a shower–but the Toddler is taken care of.)

I find that when I am irritated, it is usually because I have lost perspective on the world around me and am bugged because I want something my way. I wish I could say that this was on an elevated plane or something, but basically, it is much more about “me” then my concern for the suffering of others.

So, this makes me wonder what moves people to step outside themselves? If not for the fact that I have chosen to live a “what would Jesus do” existence, I’m pretty sure I would not feel compelled to DO something about all the hurts/injustices/horrors in the world. If you don’t have a moral reason for acting selflessly from time to time, why do people do it?

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