ABOUT TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY YEARS AGO A TEACHER WAS BORN INTO THIS WORLD. We celebrate his birth yet today, and particularly on this night. At its essence, his teaching called upon us to abandon selfishness. To love our neighbor as ourselves. And to greatly expand our idea of who our ‘neighbor’ might be–beyond the comforting restrictions of family and friends and those who look and sound and act just like us.
The Teacher said that to abandon selfishness was to embrace a larger, better, and more beautiful life. That in this embracing we should comfort the poor and the afflicted, the scorned and dispossessed, the wounded and the sick, and that we should do so generously. We have been struggling to live up to this simple teaching ever since, far too often falling back into comfort and cynicism, prejudice and self-indulgence, and most appallingly, often doing so while invoking the Teacher’s name.
This year, at this time, we are called upon once again to abandon selfishness. With a pandemic wounding millions physically, emotionally, and economically, and killing hundreds of thousands of our ‘neighbors,’ our brothers and sisters, while overwhelming and shattering the bravest, most selfless heroes among us–nurses, doctors, and first responders–the call has gone out again and again. Please. Abandon selfishness. Please. Think of others. Please. Think of your neighbor. Think of the poor and unemployed. Think of the sick and the despairing. Think of the nurse who cries herself to sleep at night, overwhelmed and agonized over the suffering and deaths she could not prevent. The sickness and mortality that loom unending through a dark and brutal winter and spring.
But still, for far too many Americans, this call, this plea, is merely a voice in the wilderness. Abandon selfishness? Please do something simple to protect your neighbor? Please take a little care? Please wear a protective mask? Please do not prioritize your own pleasure or socializing or the making of a shallow, silly ‘political statement’ over the health and well-being of your friends, family and community? Please take a tiny, simple step back from unfettered freedom and ‘liberty’ to help make a life and death difference for people you may or may not know, for your ‘neighbors’ and your country? For many–for millions–it has been–unbelievably– far too much to ask.
So let’s ask yet again. Right now, at this season, as we celebrate the birth of the wise and gentle Teacher. Medical experts and professionals, heroes, those who are struggling to keep the rest of us healthy and safe and alive, unanimously tell us that over the next months, until vaccines are widely available, just the wearing of masks, limiting travel, and social distancing can save tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of lives. Period. Could make it possible to SAFELY reopen struggling businesses and restore jobs and improve the economy and help millions of families.
Love your neighbor as yourself? Help the poor, the sick and afflicted? When in our lifetimes has there ever been a clearer, simpler path forward? An easier, more powerful way to make a difference? Please tell me, when? And when has it ever been more plain to see when someone is too unfeeling, uncaring, and obviously unwilling to do so–to follow the plea and the command of the Teacher so many claim to follow yet today. To abandon selfishness. To look with compassion upon your neighbor, and to say… what can I do to help?