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When Did We See You Naked or Hungry?

The groans of pain and suffering are pandemic.  Daily, the cries of the innocent victims, wailing of shattered lives from tragic acts done deliberately to inflict pain, and the copious tears shed from sorrows of life fill our news reports with their cacophony of wounded voices.  No longer does the life and well-being of another person have the same reverence and respect that we once held to be sacred.  Many factors and trends working together have numbed our sensitivities to the needs and value of our neighbor.

Perhaps worse than willful acts of aggression against another person is the complete and utter neglect that is rampant.  What we see breaks our hearts.  But, because of so many that are hurting, we have come to be selective in seeing destitution, brokenness, and poverty all around us. The result is that we too often fail to seek to alleviate the tremendous struggles that others face.

Negligence is not the natural response of human nature.  Children are quick to want to help a dog that is whimpering, a bird that cannot fly, or another child that is crying. Somehow, over time that impulse is suppressed to prevent us from being overloaded with the many needs around us.  At some point in our journey, our sight becomes selective so that we choose to only see the pain in the faces and lives of those nearest to us.  The beggar, orphan, immigrant, crippled, jobless, homeless, and all the others in our daily paths are avoided as we hurry on our way to our next meeting or family event.

Jesus taught that we are to “do unto others as we would have them do to us”.  He said that “we are to love our neighbors as ourselves”. He even said that we are to “love our enemies”.  I fear that we are not as obedient in these simple commands as He intended for us to be.

I never was guilty of wrong action but on my account lives have been lost, trains have been wrecked, ships have gone down at sea, cities have burned, battles have been lost and governments have failed.  

I never struck a blow nor spoke an unkind word, but because of me homes have been broken up, friends have grown cold, the laughter of children has ceased, wives have shed bitter tears, brothers and sisters have forgotten, and fathers and mothers have gone broken-hearted to their graves. 

I have intended no evil, but because of me talent and genius have come to naught, courtesy and kindness have failed, and the promise of success and happiness has yielded sorrow and disaster.  

I have no color except black, no sound but just my silence, no cause for being myself, no progeny except grief and disaster. You may not at this instant call me by name, but surely you are personally acquainted with me. I am Neglect.

(T. M. Olson).