I got to thinking the other day about what is the measure of a person — man or woman, or for that matter the measure of any institution, or nation. What is it that determines where we place our trust or support? Walter Cronkite used to be the last word for the whole country. If you couldn’t trust Walter Cronkite as he brought us the evening news and CBS, well you couldn’t trust anyone. We listened to the Kennedy assassination, the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the Watergate hearings, man on the moon, dozens of elections, the Vietnam War and we trusted that the words we were getting were words we could believe. But within the last few years the level of trust in this country has plummeted. If we don’t like the news, its fake news. So you believe nothing because who can you trust. Every level of our trusted institutions in this country are being questioned. Nothing is sacred.
There are a great many yardsticks that we use to determine who we will follow. For me, one of the key elements in a person’s character is how they treat “the least of these.” Jesus coined the phrase when he talked about helping the hungry, those in prison, the poor. He said when you have helped the “least of these, my brethren”, you have done it to me.” When he says, ‘my brethren’ he is calling them, my brothers, my family.
Often “the least of these” get short shrift from humanity. I will start with our treatment of animals. Imagine, the world needs a society to prevent cruelty to animals who are often tortured and neglected, defenseless creatures. To see someone mistreating animals is a warning sign that there is worse to come.
Children are high on the list of those we work to protect worldwide. Children need food and shelter, they need protection from those who would harm them in many ways — slavery, sexual abuse, physical abuse. Children deserve medical care and they deserve an education. To deny children quality teachers and learning material and facilities that are safe is criminal.
The elderly need protection especially when physical illnesses, dementia, and age make them fragile. In Japan the elderly are called national treasures and they are cared for and honored as such. They have worked hard and contributed to society all their lives and are examples of courage and determination. To hurt those who cannot defend themselves is criminal.
Today I saw someone assisting a person with disabilities. It was a startling reminder that those with physical and mental disabilities need our continued support. The American Disabilities Act has helped achieve some of that, but there is more to do.
The #Metoo movement has helped us see the least of these is a gender issue as well. Just visit with women who clean motels or hotels or work as waitresses to better understand the poverty level wages and the sexual harassment they face.
Without a doubt, worldwide, the plight of millions of refugees is calling the world to account for the disruption caused by political turmoil. The bombings and acts of terrorism always hurt those who can least cope.
Overwhelming list, isn’t it? And yet, each one of us has probably walked this road at some point in our lives. We have been the ‘least of these’ and been hurt by the world around us. A list like this makes you want to go to your home and shut the world out. It hurts so much to see others hurting. We can’t fix the world, but we can find ways to actively care about others and demand our political and institutional leaders do the same.
Voting is coming upon us very soon and whether it is a school mill levy, a county or national election, each is a referendum calling those elected to be accountable and show compassionate care for those in need. We must vote with heart and mind and not allow the bullies and the braggarts to be in control. We are duty bound to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Who do I trust? Those who walk beside me using hands and heart for the good of all.