The other day I brought my 2-year-old daughter to the doctor. She had a growth on her body that we wanted to check out. The doctor looked it over and recommended we take her to a dermatologist to rule out any of the more scary possibilities. She set up an appointment for us and a half-hour later I was standing in the dermatologist’s office. After a brief examination, he determined that it was merely a fungus and wrote a prescription for two creams that would help cure it quickly.
As I was stepping out of the elevator of the dermatologist’s office, holding my daughter in my arms I was at once struck by the immense fortune with which my life and my daughter’s life has been blessed.
My wife and I had a minor medical concern about one of our children and within several hours medical experts had examined my daughter and prescribed us the cure.
As I look around me I see similar fortune. In fact, I can readily see others enjoying a standard of living that far exceeds my own.
Yet, if I let my eyes peek beyond the visible horizon, if I allow my mind to travel only several hundred kilometers beyond where I now sit, the picture looks much different, brutally so.
I see parents holding their sick children. There are no doctors. There is no medicine. They hold their children with the same love with which I hold mine, it is only our luck that separates us. I am blessed to have medical professionals close by while they can only chase the flies from their children’s puffy and red eyes.
Compared to the Kardashians my life seems nearly impoverished. Compared to much of the world’s population, however, I live in such enormous wealth as to stagger their imaginations.
Most of us judge our economic status by that of the Joneses. We see our wealth in terms of our neighbor’s wealth and we place ourselves somewhere on the spectrum of prosperity. Some of us are rich and some of us are poor, but the great many of us have a quality of life that is only dreamt of by much of the human family.
If we could see the level of poverty, the depth of suffering, the chasm that separates our lives from those of many of our fellow humans we would at once feel uncomfortable in our luxury. The tragic fact is that while we are lucky enough to be financially struggling in a prosperous country, there are, not too far away, thousands of parents holding their sick children with nowhere to go.
What are we to do with this disparity? How can we right this terrible wrong? How can we guarantee that every sick child has the same wonderful privilege that my daughters have?
These are the questions that should plague our discourse. There no easy answers. Each person and each society will have to wrestle with how much to give and to whom. There are, to be sure, many right answers to the above questions, but complacency is not one of them.
One thing is certain, we should be thinking about these questions much more than we are currently. The fact that we can sleep on our Tempur-Pedic mattresses as comfortably as we do while millions suffer all around us, is certainly a failure of our imagination as much as it is a failure of morality.
Below are two links to organizations that help rate charities so that whatever money you give, you can be assured, it is going straight into the hands of our less fortunate brothers and sisters all around this small planet of ours:
“He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not thy duty to finish the work, but thou art not at liberty to neglect it.” (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:21)