A catastrophe occurs a thousand miles away. It impacts people we’ve never met in a country we’ve never visited. Despite our apparent lack of connection, hundreds or thousands of people will reach out to help those in need. They may send money or clothes, run fundraisers, or even visit in person to provide practical aid on the ground.
In some cases, of course, those who come to the rescue have a vested interest in the people impacted by the catastrophe. They may have relatives among those impacted, or have a personal history with the community. But just as often, the “rescuers” are volunteers who are simply moved by the plight of other human beings and take action to make things a little better.
Yet despite the involvement of a limited few, there are millions who hear about or read about floods, famines, wars, or diseases sweeping through a community and feel no particular sense of connection to those experiencing the pain. They may spare a moment of thought, or mention the news to a friend, but their focus returns to their “own” people, situations, and communities.
Often, those who take action do so for reasons unconnected to the particular events of the moment. They may be associated with rescue organizations like the Red Cross, or take action through local groups like their neighborhood church or Rotary Club. Those who do take action may feel a spiritual need to “do good,” or even a sense of guilt resulting from their own privilege relative to those impacted.
Does our need to “fix” the problems of those whom we’ve never met reflect a basic part of human nature? Or does the fact that only a relative few feel moved to act tell us something very different about human beings? How connected do you feel to the victims of events that occur far from your circle of acquaintance?