It was prompted by the Boston Bombings, and became a discussion about the tangled trail of human tragedies and her belief that people today don’t really give a crap about other people. In fact, she said, “People don’t really give a rats @ss about things or other people unless it is happening to them or affects them personally.”
I tried with a hopeful heart to point out all the good things people do. The way communities come together to help a family, the way churches and organizations form to volunteer time and resources to help others. The good things that often stem from a tragedy, the friendships made in cancer wards etc. She wasn’t buying it.
She told me a story about a boy in her class who committed suicide last year. Up until he did so, she said the teachers and administrators at her school as well as the bulk of the student body were ‘mean’ to this kid. She believed he had been written off, despite that he was known for smoking pot and getting into trouble and was probably in need of some help. Then, his funeral turned into a city-wide event – and filled a church to the gills and beyond with people crying and sobbing what she believed were fake tears of guilt. Many of these same people decimated by his death, adults and children alike, were the very ones who had nothing good to say about this boy, and who never once reached out a hand or extended themselves to him. In her eyes the mourning and production in the aftermath was fake, and only a resolution to guilt that people were feeling for treating this young man as disposable to begin with. And she points out that today, almost a year later – very few people even talk about this young man anymore.
She talked about how at school most young people only get involved in other people’s problems because they are nosy, and likened it to rubber- neckers on the highway slowing down to see an accident. For a split second they feel compassion, they may offer a word of kindness or some advice, or metaphorical blanket of warmth in the moment - perhaps send up a prayer – but then they move on and give the situation little further thought because it didn’t affect them.
She had in fact, tons of examples of fake compassion. And although a large part of my hippy self wants to believe that there are a lot of people in this world who truly care, and who truly reach out to others – I have to admit that in many ways she is right.
There are more people who are willing to remain complacent than there are who are willing to give something – whether it be their time, resources or heart. We do tend to easily forget, quickly discard, and rapidly un-invest in anything that doesn’t affect us personally.
Sure, we all feel bad about things that happen. We all hate to see people suffering, see the loss of life, see horrific tragedies like bombings or mass shootings. And while it may instill many of us with fear and anger – the awful reality is that the majority of the world just moves on shaking their head. If you gathered the percentages of those that help compared to those that do nothing – it would likely be shockingly low in relation to the overall population.
Why do people help? What makes someone reach out to someone with an honest heart and compassionate soul? For those that do because they care, it is simply that. They care. And they see humankind as an extension of themselves and realize that if they are able to help and spread love, then they should. They even feel compelled to do so at a deep self and spiritual level.
And yet, in my young daughters defense, there are plenty of people who reach out momentarily only to relieve their own guilt or fear or anger or resentment about situation. And plenty of other people who will message you on FB, approach you in the grocery store, or send you a text to check on you just so they can find out what is really going on in your life. The information alone satisfies them, although their reaching out is done under the veil of compassion – it isn’t really compassionate at all. It is self-serving and riddled with guilt.
I am not sure that there is a solution to this, or even if this can be classified as a problem.
Perhaps we are living in a world that has become desensitized to one another – that is living by a motto of “every man and woman for himself.” Or perhaps this is just a defense mechanism so that we aren’t overloaded with fear and misery, and overwhelmed by taking on the broken wings of every bird in the world. Truth is, I don’t know the answer.
She asked me if our house burned down, who would help us? She asked me if I were to die and her and her sisters were to lose their mother, how long would it be before people forgot and moved on with their own lives? And as far as the bombings and mass shootings and terrorist attacks – she reminded me that as soon as the news coverage is over, most will just forget and move on – while thousands of others will be affected for the rest of their lives. And she’s right, the ones personally affected will never forget. But the rest of us, sadly….will. Or will at least push it to the back of our minds.
She said, “Mom, is giving those people water – or collecting their shoes or selling t-shirts, really enough? Or is it just a way for people to make themselves feel better about themselves – boosting their own ego temporarily?”
I will admit that I was left in awe of her wisdom. And saddened by her lack of faith in humanity. I like to believe the best about people. I like to think that I have raised my daughters to find the good in others, and to be compassionate souls. But having people literally run over your dog in front of your house – then drive away without even slowing down to apologize while you stand there and watch a beloved pet die – leaves a sharp scar about the compassion in this world.
Still, I will continue to point out the good things to my daughter. Will continue to try and keep her faith in humanity as inherently good alive. I just wish the world would help me out a bit.
What’s your take? Do people really care about one another? Or are many acts of kindness just ways to inflate our own egos?