Imagine you have a well paying job with excellent benefits. Your family lives in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood; your children are healthy and doing well in school. Your family has many friends and a great social life. Your spouse has some health issues, but because of the insurance at work, everything is manageable.
Now imagine one day you go into work and your boss calls you into his office. Because the company is experiencing financial issues, they have to downsize many of their employees and you are one of them. You are asked to collect your things and leave that day. They give you a small severance package and you can take COBRA, the extended insurance coverage, but you have to pay full premiums which runs over $1,500 a month for your family.
You arrive home and break it to your spouse. You have a little saved up and the severance package will hold you for a few months, but the insurance premiums, mortgage, and other bills are going to take a big chunk out of your finances. You try to get another job, but jobs are scarce. Months go by and your money starts to dwindle. COBRA runs out and you can’t get insurance because you cannot afford it and your spouse can’t be covered because of pre-existing conditions. Because there is no health care, your spouse’s health rapidly declines. Your children are complaining because you can no longer afford to pay for their cell phones and other gadgets.
Soon, you can no longer make your mortgage payments and you lose your home. Your family and friends start forgetting about you. Without any other place to go, you live either out of your car or in homeless shelters. Eventually, you end up on the street.
Many of us judge the less fortunate thinking that all they have to do is get a job, stop eating, stop taking drugs or drinking, all they have to do….. It is only by fate that we are not in those same situations. It can happen to any one of us. Think it can’t happen? Ask anyone who thought the same thing and yet it did happen. No matter how hard people try, sometimes life just happens and they end up where they never thought they would end up.
In 1989, I was given a dream. In this dream a “force” took me into various scenarios: a bar filled with alcoholics and people who had given up on life, a homeless camp filled with adults and children, and a veterans’ hospital, filled with broken men and women. As I looked at these people, I was able to see into their lives to see what they experienced and what they were feeling. Many lost hope. Ever since then, I learned that there is always a bigger picture, and I learned to have so much more love, compassion, and understanding for those who are experiencing life at its worst.
How many of us look at the less fortunate and throw them by the wayside not caring about them or wanting anything to do with them? We think they have nothing to do with us so why bother? Yet they are still human beings and they still matter.
How many politicians, religious leaders, and others want to completely push so many of these aside and not care for them? Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). When we don’t care, what does that say about us as human beings, as Christians (or whatever your religion), as a society, or as a country?
Jesus, as well as all the great spiritual masters throughout time, taught us to be our brothers’ keeper and to be ambassadors of love, faith, hope, and charity. When we turn our backs on the less fortunate, we are turning our backs on everything Jesus and these other masters taught and stood for.
We humans have the greatest capacity to be the ultimate humanitarians. We are at our best when we take care of each other. Will you be that humanitarian? Will you help care for the less fortunate? Will you be their advocate? Will you speak up for them? It is only by fate that we are not in their shoes. Remember, it could be you in their shoes.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 26, 2013.