Despite the fact that I'm not too far from hitting the big 4-0, I still find myself smacked upside the head by a childish naivety. Recently, I chatted with a friend about career goals, and she noted that her primary drive in life is to inspire others. Lovely and lofty goal, isn't it? But what followed knocked me off my rocker.
She noted that we differed in our sense of compassion. She explained that although she wanted to inspire people, she didn't feel compelled to help the homeless or other extremely destitute souls. She admired my concern for the poor, but simply stated, "I don't have that kind of compassion." Um, say what?
I've run into similar situations before, where folks focus on frugality simply so that they can buy more crap. Having more money or time to give to others never really entered into their brains. I always assumed those folks were idiots. Turns out, I'm the idiot (this is a reoccurring theme).
I am one of those dumb ass liberals who is frequently delusional, thinking that if folks simply had a similar education or awareness of certain issues, they would feel the same as me. It's not an uncommon affliction. We're always amazed when we find someone with a similar background who thinks differently. Many conservatives want the same things as us; they simply approach it in a different manner, which leaves us stunned. Silly, innit?
Yet I found the wind knocked out of me when a creature so similar to myself voiced a lack of concern for the poorest among us. I had always assumed that people didn't do more to help the homeless simply because they held false beliefs about the poor (e.g., all homeless folks are addicts, etc.), were mean or just plain stupid. Nope. Some intelligent, kind folks don't care about the poor because, well, they simply don't care. It's just not in 'em. Color me shocked.
This bit o' education has helped me to understand why so few have so much and so many have so little. When even the educated and aware don't give a shit, what other circumstance would we find ourselves in? And it's not like my friend is evil. Quite the contrary. She's a lovely human being with a good heart. Her heart's just directed differently than my own. And it means that those of us who do have a big, wide and sweeping compassion must work all the harder (without falling into the martyr trap, of course) to help those in need.
I'm not worried though. Love is a powerful force that doesn't require a legion of followers to bring light to dark places. A handful of caring citizens has changed the game many times over. Still, I'd much prefer a world full of people who give a shit about everyone versus one where only a handful do. But we have to make do with what we have, and we have enough to change lives for the better. Or so I keep telling myself.