I have spent a large part of my life in the public eye. No, that is not a comment on how successful I have been at it, but I have a talent for attracting attention, and things like being an actor, running your own business, and writing blog posts that piss people off will do that for you. Still, it sometimes comes as a shock to remember that I am not operating in a vacuum, that people around me really are seeing what I do, hearing what I say, and sometimes it is even impacting them.
This afternoon for example, a sweet friend of mine messaged me privately to ask about one of my last blog posts where I told of my adventures in a Guthrie McDonald's on a chilly Saturday Fall morning. Seems she was trying to find the meaning in it, and I wasn't really sure I had put any into it, or nothing specific, anyway. I said as much to her and tossed a comment about one thing that had occurred to me about it, which seemed to help, she replied with a message that kind of stopped me in my tracks, “Thanks, you are a role model to a lot of people, including me.”
I wanted to scream “NOOOO!” “Don't do it!” I am so messed up at times, that I don't know which way is up, and I sure as hell do not want to be responsible for somebody else's demise in following my example.
That was the second such incident today, the housekeeper at the home I am working on at the moment began to ask me questions about my faith, and I answered openly and honestly, telling her about my misgivings with institutional church and sharing some things from scripture about some things she said. Then she asked me what I thought of a particular church, which I won't mention here, but I spent quite a bit of time there, and my experience was not all good. She asked why, and I was very careful to temper my response. Not because I had anything to hide, but as Paul said, don't eat the meat if it's going to bother your unbelieving friend.
We don't live in a vacuum and this goes two ways, not only should we be aware, not afraid, but aware of how our words and actions effect those around us for good, or bad, but we should be watching out for their welfare as well.
As I sat in another McDonald's for lunch today, one of the managers on break read a story about a woman throwing her own six year old child off a bridge. I nearly wept thinking of what must have happened in this woman's life to lead to this. Of course a part of me wants to toss her over too, but I think, who was in her life that should have seen this coming and helped?
In our society today, we tend to see ourselves in isolation, it is the era of the selfie, we are so self reflective, most of us would not notice if the world really were burning down around us, unless it effected us directly. While I abhor government interference into situations such as the woman on the bridge, there has to be a solution. Where are we when the crap hits the fan in others' lives? Are we really too busy to help, or is it something else?
Is it this idea that if we offer to help, we become responsible somehow, they may look up to us. Like feeding a stray cat leads to owning a cat. Too many times I think we hesitate to do good out of a fear that it will cost us something more than a bag of groceries or an hour of our time. After all, I have my own agenda, and slowing down to help you might interfere with that.
But, as I said, and a lot of other people agree, I don't want my government getting involved in the messy details of private lives. So, that leaves me and people like me. If we really want a less governed world, we are going to need to govern ourselves. This means being aware of our influence on others, it also means being willing, available, and aware enough to step up when someone needs us. We have to become at once more self reliant, and more involved in the lives of others, another of those beautiful paradoxes that the kingdom of God seems filled with.
So, what do you think? Are we, or are we not our brother's keeper? Where does responsibility for self end, and reliance on others begin?