People have a bias towards negative news (as long as it doesn’t affect them). [Here’s an earlier post on that topic.] And we tend to ignore the troubles others have – especially strangers. But there are random acts of kindness. They don’t attract reports on big media, so it’s hard to find numbers. I’ve received and given acts of goodwill many times, with strangers and acquaintances. My friend G. sent me this picture out of the blue, saying she could gaze at it for hours, any time her spirits need a lift. It was taken by a friend of Heather Richardson in Ukraine, before all the horrors started there. I love it too!
I seldom ask for favors. It’s been a life-long habit to think I can do it myself. That’s natural. Children have a will of their own, as soon as they’re past infancy. If they’re forced to do something, it’s the desire to get a reward or avoid punishment that motivates their action. And I lived through rebellious eras. James Dean and Marlon Brando were heroes of my youth. A little later (1979) we had Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall Pt 2: “We don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control. ‘Ow can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?'” Here’s a brief recording of that song.
My very independent Mother said ‘One of the blessings of old age is we must learn to accept help graciously’. I’m in that place, but haven’t begun to be gracious about it. And we need to give back, or better pass along Goodwill, or kindness to others. That’s the groundwork of morality – the Golden Rule, given by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. (Mt 7:12) ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. These deeds should not be done to receive credit, or hypocritically for a good reputation, or to improve business. It’s a spiritual law which applies to our eternal life. Kant famously criticized this rule as inferior to the ‘Categorical Imperative’ he developed. Here’s a nice summary and response to Kant’s thinking, in Philosophy Now org, by surgeon Paul Walker and social worker Ally Walker, in New South Wales, Australia.
In John 5, Jesus heals a man with ‘an infirmity for 38 years’, waiting to be cured when an angel came down and stirred the water. “5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7 The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ 8 Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.”
I emphasize the word ‘want’ because in Biblical texts, things we want are not only talking about our earthly desires, ambitions and needs. On a deeper, inner level, they symbolize what money can’t buy. On the spiritual plane, all these things, like food, clothing, success, health, assistance, knowledge, truth, wisdom – in short, happiness – money cannot buy. They come ‘Without money and without price’ from the One who offers happiness to every human, everywhere, forever.
In Matthew Chap 6, Jesus emphasizes where our priority should be. “31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It’s OK to worry about earthly needs and learn how to meet them, but in the long run, all those worries will pass as we leave this life for the next. The texts quoted above promise heavenly reward, but there’s a proviso. It can happen ONLY IF we do our share of the work. We need to break the very strong hold that worldly desires and beliefs have on all of us; it’s a struggle. But reciprocity can bring us together, both in this world and in the next. We need reciprocity with our neighbors through genuine efforts to do well by them. And we reciprocate with the Lord when we do what he asks. This way we invite him to enter in and help us turn toward him.