A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a picture of a family sleeping on the street, with the following sentence in bold caps:
THESE ARE AMERICANS ON THE STREET…AND YOU ARE OUTRAGED OVER REFUGEES?
I was a bit shocked by this “us versus them” sentiment and wrote, “I think we can feel outrage for ALL human suffering. One does not outweigh the other.”
One person responded: “You’ve got to take care of your own children first.”
Such simple words, but they hit me hard. I’ve been thinking about them ever since, trying to figure out why they bother me so much.
Maybe part of it is because I’m a teacher. When you teach, you get to know your students personally — and all the children in your class become your children. You listen to them, care for them, spend sleepless nights worrying about some of them. And if you work in a school with a strong sense of community, all the students in the entire school become your children. With this experience comes the realization that love is not finite, and the more you open your heart, the more love you have to give. Your growing sense of empathy reaches beyond borders.
Love should not be limited to “your own children.” All children deserve love and caring. There should be no boundaries — and no ranking system — to caring for others. Not in our homes, not our classrooms, not in our communities, and not in our countries. The world is our home and all the children of the world belong to all of us. Although we may feel helpless because we can’t help everyone who needs it, the first step to making change is opening our eyes and hearts to the needs of all people around us. Partitioning our hearts by prioitizing the needs of others based on “us versus them” hardens us and makes us smaller, weaker people. We live in a global, interconnected world and if our caring is limited by artificial boundaries, we’ll never heal our planet.
Do I think we should help the homeless in our streets? Of course. But that doesn’t negate the need to help refugees. Our world is aching with people who need help. And one child is never more important than another. Ever.