We are all responsible

Recently I was emailed a video of some of the most developed cities on the African Continent.  The attached language suggested that if the country have the kind of wealth to build up the luxury towers of Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Cairo, Johannesburg, etc then why should we send money to help the starving children there.  It struck me as not only crass but so ignorant.  There are many reasons why the wealth, concentrated in a handful of people, many with ties to the west does not trickle down to the people in the rural villages of countries where HIV has devastated the population, where famine has destroyed the crops that sustained life for centuries and where colonization not only destroyed the tribal life that gave protection to all, but brought decades of racism that destroyed an ability for some to express their own social contracts.  But even if none of this was true and it was simply pure greed, why should we not reach out and help?  It is interesting to me that someone could think we should not be, "taken in", by images of hungry children in Africa as if it is a large scam to steal our money.

The disparity is real and powerful.  It is stunning to me that as we see city after city in our own country struggle with the Occupy movement raising the awareness of similar concentration of wealth here someone could be so unthinking.  As if because the Plaza Hotel exists, we should ignore the poverty that is endemic in places like the Bronx.  But in the video's analogy it seemed like if our country could build Las Vegas, they how could we possible have an Appalachia?  Yet somehow we should ignore the plight of the poor of Africa because of Western investment and towering buildings in a few cities.

There is a line that makes a powerful statement in the Jewish tradition and similar lines of text and commentary permeate many other faith traditions.  We should not stand idly by the blood of our brother.  It means we can't simply look the other way.  It doesn't matter why the person is poor or in trouble it is our duty to help.  Everyone is made in the image of God.  Why should we not try to find an excuse not to help, in fact I think we should look for an excuse to help.  We should be honored with the opportunity to reach across town, country or globe to feed the hungry, clothe the naked or heal the sick.

I was in a wacky play called It Takes a Wizard when I was a kid.  The 70s really was a boom for surreal theatre for children.  In this play an escaped prisoner and Robin Hood appear.  Robin Hood robs the King and gives the money to the prisoner.  The prisoner exclaims upon receive the treasure "I'm rich", so Robin robs her. I was reminded of that scene when I saw this.  The person, apparently angry with the fact that there are real 1st world cities in Africa feels duped by the poverty that is so much more prevalent there because the Cairo Hilton screams to him "I'm rich".  Perhaps we should take a bit of what the Occupy movement is trying to say and think about not where is the poverty but why is the poverty.  But still, when you see a truly hungry person offer food, someone who is sick, provide healing and the most important thing is that given them the skills and resources so they no longer live in that situation and then they can help their neighbors and the guy in the Penthouse becomes less relevant.

There are many ways to do this, regardless of where you are, hit me up if you want more information.  In the meantime, as we move into what it the most giving time of the year remember, you can always make a difference and you don't have to worry so much that someone else isn't.

   

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