There’s just a certain way of saying it: “ohhh, that poooor thing.” And instantly we know, they’re talking about those people, that kid, that neighborhood, that life. Good thing I’m better off than they are, we think.
In the Bible Jesus says, “whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) Now whether or not you believe in God or the Bible, this verse should mean something to you. It means the world to me: I believe in doing unto the least. Serving other people is the key. Whether you devote your life to serving people in faraway places or work at the same mundane job every day of your life or clean up after the people you live with or smile at a complete stranger, we were made to serve.
Service isn’t just about helping someone who has less than we do; it is about having an attitude of equality—that you are not above anyone, even the people which society considers “the least.” Not only are we called to help those people, that neighborhood, those kids, but we are called to do it with a non-judgmental attitude. We must believe in the people that we are reaching out to. If somebody was reaching out to you at your lowest point but didn’t believe that you could ever make anything of yourself, then would you even want them reaching out to you in the first place? I sure wouldn’t. We must believe that the people we are “rescuing” would be able to do the same for us.
If we are too good to set foot in that neighborhood, touch those people, send our kids to that school, then what are we really saying? I believe that our actions say more than our words. If we really believe in people, then we need demonstrate that.
One thing that baffles me is when tourists go places where people are different than they are and they want to take pictures of all of the poverty, all of the hurt, all of the sadness. Instead of sitting down with people and trying to understand them and do something that will make them happy, we just sit back and take pictures of their misfortune. How many pictures of third world countries have you seen with frowning adults or expressionless children? Certainly a lot more than of smiling, happy people. Our perceptions are based on a stereotypical “National Geographic Image” where miserable-looking people are pictured in pages next to wild animals. We look at the pictures and say, “oh, how terrible.” We get them printed in black and white. Hang them on our walls. Put them in photo contests. Look at them with puppy dog eyes. Is this really how we can say that we are doing unto the least?
I don’t believe in perfection—we live in an imperfect world. But I do believe in doing unto the least. Instead of just watching from a distance, I believe in jumping in the hardship, filth, and pain. I believe in not just watching the hurt of the least, but putting ourselves next to the least until those people, that school, those kids become our own.
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