In a conversation with my sister the other day, she suddenly interjected by saying, "Bob, you know one of the main things wrong with our country today is that we do not care for one another like we used to."
I agreed. At least that's the way it seems these days when listening to the news or visiting a large department store.
I was recently in a small store when I noticed three people, apparently a husband and his wife plus their adult son, not wearing a mask. As they came down my aisle, I immediately moved over as far as I could in order to allow them to pass. As they passed, the older male turned to me and asked, "What's the matter?" I pointed to their faces, and said politely, "You don't have a mask. Apparently, you don't care for me." He then replied, "What do you mean we don't care for you?" We then went our separate ways. It was obvious to me that their thoughts were upon themselves. They were thinking we aren't worried about catching the coronavirus, so don't worry about us; but if they were carriers of covid-19, I was the one in danger.
Our granddaughter works for a bank in another state and has recently been infected with covid-19. It apparently happened when she was asked to go downstairs and make a deposit for a customer who turned out to be sick and not wearing a face mask. Although our granddaughter was wearing her mask, it only took one mishap and she had the virus. The sick person was thinking about herself and not the people she was encountering. Our granddaughter was the victim.
The idea of caring for oneself and not others is evident in our country from the top down. Our current president and his staff too often refuse to wear masks or maintain distancing and report that they are not worried because they are tested every day. That may be great news for them but not for the rest of the people around them, and scores of those people have come down with the coronavirus. Their disrespect for others would be lessened if they were modeling correct behavior for others, something that would do a lot to eliminate the differences people have about following CDC guidelines in our country.
However, after thinking about the current emphasis upon oneself instead of others, I also began to remember some of the things from the past. Many years ago, a tornado ripped through Ruskin Heights, a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., wreaking horrendous damage to everything from houses to even a brick schoolhouse. Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle lived in that area, and, of course, I was worried about them. As soon as they would let me into the area, I began to check on them. I knew what block they lived on but, unfortunately, I did not know the exact house number. However, as I knocked on doors asking about them, no one admitted to even knowing them, let alone their situation. I spoke with everyone on that block except the one house where no one was at home -- yep, my aunt and uncle's place. Apparently, no one on that block cared enough about their neighbors to even know their names.
As a pastor making home calls, I have discovered that the above situation is not unique. It happens too much of the time. So, maybe the idea of not caring for one another is not just a problem of our time.
And yet, these examples do not completely tell the whole story about caring for one another. There are many examples of neighborhood groups meeting together all across America for fellowship and to help one another. As an example, one of my neighbors saw me blowing leaves off my yard the other day, and immediately came over to help me with his blower. And I had helped my other neighbors by already blowing off most of their leaves. We know each other and do not hesitate to be neighborly.
I do not believe that the people in our country are isolationists, not caring for one another, and primarily taking care of only themselves. However, whenever difficult times come, it does appear that people care for themselves first instead of helping others. And, although it's difficult to admit, it also appears that many of our elected officers too often care more for themselves than for the people they were elected to serve. Perhaps that should be one of the first criteria considered when re-election time comes.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.