There are the people for whom we volunteer, and there is us.
Seems callous to say, doesn’t it? But this is the mentality I see all over Rockhurst.
We create a finite wall, never allowing the lives of the poor, the sick, the homeless to affect how we live our lives.
Acts of charity are almost viewed as favors. Everyone feels bad for kids in underperforming schools; everyone feels bad for the people who don’t have food on the holidays. But how many of us are changing our lives to help those people, to even the playing field?
Take Ebola as an example. Everyone at Rockhurst understands—or should understand— the sheer size and scope of that disaster. There are more than 6,000 people dead. The crisis will continue to destroy the lives of millions of people long after this epidemic fades, and the West African economies will take years to recover what they lost in these short months.
What was the response from many Rockhurst students with whom I spoke about Ebola? Stop flights from West Africa. Stop letting people in. Stop. Stop. Stop.
Nevermind the empirical uselessness of screening every passenger or stopping flights from West Africa (Canada wasted $15 million screening every flight from China for SARS in 2002 and found zero cases), where are the “Men for Others”? Where are those students committed to justice, to love, to religion? Even as a non-religious student, all I can think of is how Jesus sat with the lepers. He didn’t tell them to get away. He didn’t tell them to stop. He sat with them. He healed them.
Yet, this holds true for many human rights issues all over the world. The immigrants flowing across the southern border of the United States are here because their own countries are some of the most dangerous in the world—Honduras has ten times as many murders as the United States does, and El Salvador is not far behind.
The response to this is often the same: send them back. Get them out.
Certainly, this does not represent all Rockhurst students, or even a majority. There are some who work very hard to help those in need, to live alongside them.
But for many, volunteering is a mere requirement. I do my 25 hours a year and get it over with. I will be the first to admit that, until this year, this was my mindset. Get my hours done, fulfill the requirement.
As time has gone on, I have grown acutely aware of injustice. Jesus calls us not necessarily to be Men for Others, but to be Men with Others, to stand alongside the suffering, the poor and the sick.
When we consider the lives of others, we must look past the selfishness. Life isn’t about bettering your hand; it’s about bettering everyone’s.
We have all been dealt an unbelievable hand. 99% of Rockhurst graduates go to college. Most will find jobs, families and houses. Many will find charity and volunteering. But why not start now? We can use the skills and advantages we have to better people’s lives. Rockhurst wins a lot of Presidential Service Awards and sends many on service trips to help others each year. At the end of the day, though, we have to consider the ultimate goal: making a real difference.
This isn’t done in 25 hours. This isn’t done in 250 hours. This is done over a lifetime committed to doing justice and service to others, to standing beside the people who don’t have the advantages you might.
Don’t just volunteer, make a difference. Don’t forget the people you help.
At the end of a day volunteering, you may go home to your house, eat dinner, and go to bed with the heat working, but do the people you helped? You may get to attend Rockhurst and go to college, but do they? You may have a real perspective on the possibilities of your future, but do they?
There is always work to be done, Rockhurst. There are always people to stand with.