“Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thrist and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last” – John F. Kennedy
I recently returned from a trip into one of the poorest countries in the world. This trip did more to change my perception of our planet than anything that had happened in the 34 years before it. Without being overly dramatic, it was life changing.
Television, the Internet and solicitors saw to it to build my expectation of the country before I even got there. I was raised on images of sick children with sad eyes staring at the camera while John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” played.
I felt prepared for what I would experience.
But I wasn’t. The trip was physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. The sights, the poverty, the starvation, and the pleading children. These are images that I will never be able to erase from my memories. These are images that I never want to erase.
As I travelled around, I found myself looking into the eyes of many children. In each set I saw the same four things: anguish, pain, despair, and hope. There were times that I found it too difficult to handle and along with many others, I broke down and began to cry. The message was clear.
We need help.
Each night I found myself lying in bed asking the same two questions:
How could this have happened?
Have we stopped helping one another?
No matter how many times I thought about it, I always ended up with the same answer; we don’t care.
And if you think I’m wrong, think again. Our habits are littered with examples.
A simple flick of the remote and the television magically changes its channel from the cries of desperation heard in a commercial designed to make us see the truth in the world, to something more “interesting”. The radio, a device that has our undivided attention while we drive follows a similar path. When something comes on that we can’t stand to hear, a quick spin of the dial and it disappears before we can sigh in relief. Even our attempts to discuss the issues around the water cooler at work found themselves stopped the moment someone said, “This is a depressing conversation, let’s change it”.
And now, 20 years later, so much has changed. The speed at which we receive information has 10x’d making it easier and faster to access the problem. Yet, the opposite happens and we use it to avoid the problem. With the press of a button or the simple maneuvering of our thumb we can skim through the news, our social media feeds and our favorite things, ignoring the truth.
This isn’t to say that we don’t try.
Within seconds of something happening, we search for it, load it up and watch it. We’ve become glued to videos of violence, starvation, torture, and murder. Like baseball, they’ve become the national pastime and at their conclusion, we share them with our friends and families.
We’ve done our part. We somehow convince ourselves that we’ve changed the world and ended the needless suffering because we’ve shared a video. We go to sleep each night on our oversized beds thinking that we’ve made the world a better place. And we believe this because it is easy to believe.
And our ignorance doesn’t end there. There are people walking the streets imploring us to help. However, when the doorbell rings we shut the curtains and stand completely still in an attempt to convince the ringers that we aren’t home. If we’re feeling nice and choose to answer the door, the way in which we respond is almost always automatic.
“I’m doing my part.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“The money doesn’t go to where you say it does.”
And my personal favorite, “Don’t you have something better to do?”
For these reasons humanity continues to suffer.
Why does it have to be this way? Why don’t we care? Who are we to blatantly ignore what is going on?
The world does not have to be an unjust place and people do not have to suffer as they do. Today can be spent in preparation so that tomorrow is different. We can plant the seeds of tomorrow today so that they blossom tomorrow.
And it starts with actually caring. Not pretending to care but caring. Care Bear Stare type caring.
Once we’ve learned to care, our emotion becomes easier to use. Emotion has the ability to fill our hearts when they are empty and lead us when we are blind. It picks us up when we need it and drops us right back down when we don’t. Emotion gives us that “gut feeling” when we know something isn’t right.
From there, we must tap into something deep inside. We have to find a way to maximize whatever emotion it is that changes the way we look at others. We must take off our own shoes and walk a mile in another’s, seeing life through a set of eyes that isn’t our own. Not everyone is treated equally and we need to understand this.
As we do this more and more, the way that we feel about the world will drastically change. We will be looking not at strangers but at members of our family. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. And as members of our family, it’s our duty to take care of them.
And take care we will.
I’ve said it many times in the past, and I’ll say it again here. In order for the world to change, we must treat those we don’t know as well as, if not better than those we do know.
As J.F.K. said, “We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last”
We need to care about each other more than we say we currently do. We must stop living our lives behind the screen of a television or computer and start taking care of the things that need to be taken care of. We must stand up and show the next generation that this generation will no longer ignore the issues that plague us.
We’ve ignored our fellow humans too long and it is time to do something about it. This, this small change will pull the world out of the grave that it finds itself in.
And it begins with you.