Sunday, April 11, 2010

Socialism? Compassion?

My son Drew and I had a rather impassioned political conversation the other day. Older people wonder why “kids today” seem to have a sense of entitlement. I talk with a lot of young people who just feel that every human should have the same rights and privileges as every other human. Those on the political right resent having more and more of their money taken via taxes and poured into programs that benefit a few. The left believes that the poor and indigent can’t care for themselves and it is the obligation of the rich to help them. The right calls it Socialism. The left calls it compassion.

I want to believe that when there is a need, people who are able will answer the call and help. Drew responded to that with, “Really? How’d that work out for YOU?”

Like you, I’ve contributed to telethons and car washes. I’ve donated money, time, and resources to the needy and hurting. I’ve prepared many a meal for my sick friends, and I had the awesome privilege of loving on the poorest among us in an African village. Sadly, however, Drew’s question and observation are valid. When our family’s need was the greatest, we saw very little benevolence. Despite being very involved in a large church and belonging to a big family, we received no meals when I was hospitalized, no donations to help pay the enormous cost of saving our daughter’s life, and no phone call when ugly gossip about us took on a life of its own.

Throughout history, the United States has seen times of plenty and times of want. When times are good, we as a society don’t store up for the inevitable famine. We usually party. The “roaring ‘20’s”, the “Happy Days” of the ‘50’s, and the decadent 1980’s were particularly excessive decades. We were embarrassingly selfish and self absorbed.

Perhaps Americans are just finally sick to death of looking in the mirror and seeing the face of greediness. I realize that that’s an extreme generalization, but I think we all ought to look in the mirror and ask the hard questions. Maybe, just maybe, our children are not so much about endorsing entitlement, as they are about putting an end to crazy self-indulgence.

I don’t pretend to know the answer. I do know what it is to need a helping hand and not find one. It feels lonely. I also know the amazing joy that comes with showing kindness to a friend or stranger in crisis. If we all did our part, the need for government programs and handouts might just go away.

Just a thought.

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