"Always seek to do something good, somewhere," reflects Albert Schweitzer. "You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it's a little thing, do something for those who need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don't live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too."
In life, it is often difficult to view others - particularly those who are unlike ourselves - as brothers who may be in need of our care or help, and then, subsequently, to render service to them. How, then, can we break out of our own limited perspectives to remove the barriers between ourselves and such needing others in order to appropriately extend time and resources? Following are thoughts that apply:- Recognize that we all spring from the same basic earth source. Plutarch, addressing the ultimate difference between the kings and the pawns, observes: "Alexander the Great, seeing Diogenes looking attentively at a parcel of human bones, asked the philosopher what he was looking for. Diogenes' reply? `That which I cannot find - the difference between your father's bones and those of his slaves.' " Adding to such insight is the wisdom of an Italian proverb which states, "Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box."
And, just to make us humble, Helen Keller finishes: "There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his."
- Recognize that, as members of the human race, we all share the same basic feelings and vulnerabilities. Says Joshua Loth Liebman regarding men's fears: "Stripped of all their masquerades, the fears of men are quite identical: the fear of loneliness, rejection, inferiority, unmanageable anger, illness and death." Further, we all share the same basic need to love and to be loved, the same capacity for joy and sorrow, the same hopes for happiness, and the same needs for peace and security.
- Challenge our perspectives. Perhaps the most common error we make in human relations is that of imposing our view of the world on others, assuming that our view is "true" or right and judging others harshly because they don't see that truth. Similarly, we tend to view our perspectives, not only as true, but also as superior. Bill Vaughan puts this point in focus with his tongue-in-cheek remark: "In our science fiction, why is it that we always assume that people from other planets are smarter than we are but not as handsome?"
Similarly, it is difficult to feel what others feel if we have not experienced their troubles, pain, or dilemmas. Regarding this problem, Karl Menninger remarks: "When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape . . . In the same way, the human being struggles . . . with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees, and it usually misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one."
- Appreciate differences. Sydney J. Harris speaks to this point: "I pride myself on being intelligent, but you have no idea how stupid I can be in some areas. I could have lived a thousand years and not have devised the first bridge, or possibly even the first wheel - or painted the first bird, or played the first lyre, or conceived the first rule of geometry.
"Yet the persons who first did these things may have been woefully deficient in some kinds of sense - philosophic, or social, or financial, or whatever we may pride ourselves on. If the human race had only one sort of intelligence - and thus only one sort of aptitude - we might still be living in caves."
- Extend respect to the Everyman. On his 94th birthday, a reporter asked Bernard Baruch whom he regarded as the greatest person of the ages, and all in attendance strained their ears, expecting to hear the name of someone eminent or of great power. But that was not to be, for, in answering the question, Baruch observed: "The fellow that does his job every day. The mother who has children and gets up and gets the breakfast and keeps them clean and sends them off to school. The fellow who keeps the streets clean. The unknown Soldier. Millions of men."
- Recognize, as you view the misfortunes of others, that "There, for the grace of God go I." Too often people consider others as being, by nature or accident, "inferior to," or "not like," themselves. They forget that perhaps it is only by a stroke of luck or genetics that they are not one of those they have branded as inadequate.
To this point, John Cowper Powys speaks of the luck of the draw. "So many of us take it for granted, when we see weak, neurotic, helpless, drifting or unhappy people, that the gods have given us an advantage over such persons by reason of some special merit in us.
"But the more deeply sophisticated our culture, the more fully are we aware that it is luck - luck in our heredity, luck in our environment - that makes the difference. It is luck, springing from some fortunate encounter, some incredible love affair, some fragment of wisdom in word or writing that has come our way and launched us on a secret road of health and on a stubborn resolution to be happy, which has been so vast a resource to some of us in fortifying our embattled spirits. In our world, we should feel nothing but plain, simple, humble reverence for the mystery of misfortune."
- Care for our brothers. Realizing that no absolute measuring standard categorizes us according to relative value is enough, by itself, to urge us on to extend a compassionate hand to our fellow man. We are of the same ilk. We have all descended from the same God-given source, a Source which makes no distinctions with regard to worth. We are, as it were, brothers and sisters, traveling the same journey, taking the same steep mountainous route. And, looking back as we make our climb, we can grasp the hand of someone behind, "pulling" that person up to our own position in our mutual ascent.
Note: In our midst - among those less fortunate than ourselves - are the homeless, who, particularly with the advent of freezing weather, are in desperate need of help. According to the media, several hundred homeless - on the coldest night of the year thus far - slept on Salt Lake City streets without benefit of even blankets and coats.
Most of us have something we could give to reduce the level of this tragedy.
Some of us may have enough political clout to affect change on a city or state level. Some of us may have enough financial means to help fund or create adequate shelters and assistance. And some of us may be able to donate food, coats, clothing, or blankets; or to give time and service. The Salvation Army, 421 West 300 South, and the Rescue Mission, 463 South 400 West, are presently accepting donations.