“. . . Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
For the past two years the world has suffered the worst pandemic in over a hundred years, claiming the lives of an estimated six million people worldwide. Couple that with increasing rates of violent crime, an epidemic of drug abuse, rising rates of suicide, political turmoil, the highest inflation rate in forty years, not to mention the attack on Ukraine by its Russian neighbor, a move that places a threat on the rest of the world unlike any since World War II. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine famously wrote in his 1776 pamphlet series, The American Crisis.
Indeed, it feels as if we are living in such times, doesn’t it? Even worse is the helplessness we feel in fixing these things – to heal those stricken with COVID and stop its spread, to reduce crime and the flow of illegal drugs, treat mental illness, encourage our political leaders to work together, and all this as we pray for the Ukrainian people and a just and peaceful resolution to this bloody invasion. “But what can I do,” we ask ourselves, “as these problems are beyond my capacity to help?”
During my corporate days, one year as we approached year’s end the fine people on my team suggested that rather than squandering money on each other at Christmas that perhaps we might instead pool those resources to help someone in need. So, for the next few weeks we collected and purchased food, clothing, and other necessities including toys for the children, for a family we had identified. Then, one crisp December afternoon we all went as a group to deliver their gifts. One team member even dressed as Santa, providing a special treat for the small children in the family. Sometime later the word got out about what we had done, so when the next year rolled around others outside our team wanted to participate, thus adding more resources so we were able to help two families instead of one, and the following year three, as our outreach project grew.
There seems to be an unexplainable miracle that occurs when you “love your neighbor as yourself,” a ripple effect that impacts others beyond what you ever imagined. Helping others can be infectious in such a way that even in these times that are trying our souls, simple kindness to those who cross our paths can “ripple” far beyond what we can see or imagine – maybe even to those as far away as Ukraine.