We live in a dangerous world, or at least we are convinced we do. When I was in the first grade my sister and I walked home from school on most days. The distance was well over a mile. No one thought anything about it. Almost everyone walked to and from school. Today we are afraid to ever let our children/grandchildren out of our sight.
In my youth we often stopped to pick up hitchhikers. “Riding your thumb” was an accepted mode of transportation. It seemed everyone was a good neighbor. I can’t recall the last time I saw someone trying to hitchhike and it was long before that when I last stopped to pick a stranger up. (I have stopped to help people whose car was broken down.)
I suspect the world is no less safe today than in yester years. We have all been convinced evil lurks around every corner by the entertainment industry. Horror sells. Random acts of kindness get little air time on the cable news outlets. We are constantly bombarded with two messages: (1) people are a threat and (2) fools help strangers at risk of personal injury.
In spite of these messages of fear, people continue to emulate the “good Samaritan.” They resist their impulses to drive on by and stop to help those in need. They volunteer to work in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They work on community development projects and follow their heart to do good to the least of these.
Here in the south, people still hold the door open for others. Most drivers are courteous at stop signs and when changing lanes. Deep in our psyches remains the image of God, an impulse to do good that more often than not overrides the learned impulse to ignore the condition of others. We cherish the subliminal message that good will overcome evil and so we are kind to strangers.
Now let us work harder on doing unto our loved ones as we would have them do unto us.
That’s the view from near Polk County.
December 10, 2010