It’s such a shame.
In my experience, these words are rarely followed by action.
All around us, every day, we see, hear, and feel within us that things in the world are wrong. People are hurting. hungry. scared. alone. abused. neglected. terrorized. manipulated. ostracized. ridiculed. hated.
We see these things, but often it seems like the world’s problems are too much for one person to handle. They’re too much for us to solve. And we would be right. We can’t fix all the wrong in the world. It’s not our jobs.
We can fix what is happening right in front of us. Or we can at least try. I used to watch a show called What Would You Do, and I still love the concept. Unsuspecting, ordinary citizens going about their daily lives are suddenly placed in a situation where gross injustice or abuse is happening right in front of them. An abused wife is threatened by her husband. A date rape drug is openly placed in a girl’s drink while she is in the restroom. A multiracial family is harassed at a restaurant. A handicapped person is verbally abused. An immigrant is targeted by hate crime. These people don’t know that the situation playing out in front of them is being performed by actors and recorded for posterity. Many of the unsuspecting participants step in to protect the vulnerable party without a thought for their own safety or comfort; often bringing me to my feet shouting “YES!!” while tears stream down my face. But every time I watch an episode, I’m left with a bittersweet taste in my mouth…
So. Many. People. Do. Nothing.
There are episodes where absolutely no one steps in to help. You can see the raised eyebrows, the concerned glances, the worried whispers exchanged. You can hear the fact that they acknowledge what is happening is plain, old WRONG. But they do nothing. They say nothing. Some hurry to finish their meal and run out the door. They literally pass by on the other side of the sidewalk and scuttle away as fast as possible. They pretend to be engrossed in their cellphone or snicker awkwardly with friends. “So glad that’s not ME!!!”, they laugh.
Every time, I’m left with two questions. Why? Why would you choose to ignore someone who needed your help? How? How do you go home to your bed, put your head on your pillow, relive that moment, and then drift off to sleep? Some people leave in such a hurry that they don’t even know their apathy and coldheartedness has been captured on TV for all to see, blurred out face and all. Others have crew members run up to them, requesting a comment as to why they didn’t step in. Some swear at the camera, telling the director to “get out my face”; as they walk away.
Others, face not blurred, stammer that they just didn’t know what to say. They didn’t want to get involved. They own up to it and apologize, committing to do better next time they encounter a situation like this. In real life. Where it matters.
Those moments give me hope.
Jesus told a story just like this. It’s pretty important. After all, he was describing the ENTIRE crux of Christianity and the Gospel itself. I still wonder “why” and “how” people can read the story of the Good Samaritan, claim to follow Jesus Christ, then click their tongues at the hurting, move to the edge of sidewalk, and hurriedly shuffle by.
Let’s just “focus on the good”, they say. We wouldn’t want to tarnish the name of the church! Folks, the church’s good name is tarnished every time you say such nonsense. Jesus didn’t call good, evil or evil, good. For too long, that phrase has been used to condemn people for watching Harry Potter and not used to call out child molesters, gossipers, backbiters, manipulators, abusers, and cruel-hearted people within the church.
For years, I watched person after person after person kicked to the curb, beaten, stripped of dignity, spirit, and passion, robbed of the joy of Christ and communion with others, and left for emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical death…all alone. I’ve watched pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, nursery directors, choir members, worship teams, Bible students, ministry leaders awkwardly perform a sidestep shuffle around the apparently very sensitive subject of abuse and injustice in the church.
Holding up the hem of their pants or skirts, they daintily tiptoe by the blood of the wounded and pretend not to smell the rotting flesh. Sometimes they might actually stop for moment, turn their head quickly to make sure no one is watching, then bend down and give the victim a little pat on the shoulder: “We love ya! God loves ya!” they singsong. Then they wipe the blood off on their shirt and blithely skip forward, rewarding themselves for lovin’ on that poor sinner.
The sad thing is…I was once one of those people. Once upon a time, I clicked my tongue at the Others, joining the loud chorus of condemnation. I followed along or sat silently by when the delusional self-righteous crowd lifted their hands to Heaven and thanked God they were not like the wicked sinners whom they had cast out. And, though uncomfortable guilt curled and curdled and churned in my belly every time I saw those faces and heard those stories again, I was more concerned with caring for myself and my religious reputation than I was with being like the Jesus that I claimed to serve. In my heart, in my stomach, in my head, I KNEW something was wrong. But I still did…nothing.
I won’t ignore the hurting anymore. That’s the second reason I’m writing these words…that I created this site. I cannot and I will not do that anymore.
It took experiencing that pain for myself to wake up out of my selfish stupor and say more than “that’s such a shame”. Now I can walk to the beaten, human soul on the side of the road and kneel down beside them. I can show them the scars on my heart and really mean it when I say, “I know how you feel right now.” Even though I am only one person, only one small voice, I can shove my shoulder under their arm, lift them up to take a step, and shout into the darkness that they are NOT alone anymore.
I stand with the hurting because I know how it feels to be alone. If the Bible tells us anything, it screams out that the heart of God beats to the cries of those who have been wounded. Ours should too.
I don’t care who you are or what your background is, every single day of your life presents you with a “What Would You Do” moment. This moment right now? Let’s make this one count.