We lack proximity (aka, there is not here)
When you’re close enough to hear the voices of people in need, our humanity pulls us together. We are humanited. It’s actually agonizing for most of us to feel helpless or turn a deaf ear to our own. So proximity pulls us to action.
We lack belonging (aka, they are not ours)
But why do shut out some of the cries we hear, on socials and on the streets? In most cases, we’ve drawn a circle around the word “us” and we imagine their needs don’t belong to us.
No one can care deeply about everything everywhere all at once. Our empathy stops at the Us-Them border. It’s just a fact. And it’s why we overthink our action… our love. The Us-Them border keeps us from running toward the fire. Because they are not ours.
So, what should we do about it?
Well, there’s probably no “should” here.
Should brings shame. Not helpful.
But there is an opportunity.
Instead of waiting to feel, we can decide to act… to love.
The act of love brings feelings of empathy. The feelings bring more action. And action earns welcome. Suddenly, our lives have expanded.
Expanding our “we” does let more pain in. But it also expands our love.
How to sneak past the Us-Them border
I’ve crossed a number of times into countries I wasn’t supposed to be in to do what I thought needed to be done for love. In each case, there was a smuggler who said, “Come with me.”
You know what I found?
Every time I asked if we were there yet, I was met with laughter. “Brother, we crossed some time ago. We’ve been here awhile!”
Here and there.
Us and them.
These are decisions more than realities.
Choices more than feelings.
Yes, the border is real.
Until you act as if it’s not.