Last semester, I took a class called Social Ethics that basically dealt with different social issues from environmental issues to poverty to the death penalty. We were presented liberal and conservative views in many different cultures on many topics. Our running assignment was to keep an online journal to reflect on the issues and ethics connected with them. We used an online platform that allowed anybody in the class to view and comment on any class member’s journal.
One of the sections we studied (that not-so-surprisingly caught my attention) was a section on determining any given individual’s moral responsibility to help those in need. Being one who would blow $100 on something for somebody else but takes 30 minutes to debated buying a $2 item for myself, I had a lot to say on this subject. I will insert an excerpt of this journal entry at the end if you are interested in reading.
The day after I wrote the entry on this subject, a guy in my class asked me if I am Emily as I walked in the classroom door. He is a monk and I was involved in the Church on campus so I assumed he had heard about me from a mutual friend or seen me on social media or something of that nature, but what he asked me next was a little surprising. He asked if I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. He said he had read my journal and I seemed to care a lot for poor people, and I told him that Bernie was a cool dude but not meant to be our president and that I am just super passionate about mission work.
We talked more over the next couple of classes (while we were still in the section about the moral duty to help those in need). He must have observed my contributions and comments in class about how I feel very obligated and driven to help others.
One day he said, “You only feel this way because you have been in Catholic school and gone to church all of your life. It is what you know.”
I turned to look at him and without any hesitation said, “If there was no God, I would not change the way I live or the things that I do. I want to help people simply because they are humans. We are humans. We have got to help each other.”
After that, he seemed to have a different attitude towards me. Being the youngest person in my class by a couple years, it felt hard to be taken seriously, but he seemed to respect the things that I had to say.
Having been seriously involved with several mission work and mission projects for a few years now, people question my motives all the time. Part of me understands where these “concerns” are coming from since I, myself, have seen many people donate time or money for the “wrong reasons.”
I have been accused of doing what I do in order to gain some sort of attention or status or for “selfish” reasons. I have been criticized for talking excessively about what I do. People have jumped to tell me that I should not be doing things for recognition, assuming that is all I want.
I would like to set this straight, I do not publicize my work on this blog or social media to brag. I post it to gain support for my causes, spread awareness of things that media does not show, and to inspire people to make a difference. That is all.
I do mission work to change lives and the joy it brings to me is just an added bonus.
– – –
On a similar note, whether somebody is contributing to any charity, foundation, mission, etc. for the “right” or “wrong” reason should not really be a concern of anybody else besides the person who is contributing. If a student is going on a mission trip to build houses just for service hours, WHO CARES?! People in need are still reaping the benefits because they will have homes.
If a politician makes a million dollar donation to a scholarship fund just to get a few more votes in the next election, WOO HOO!! Kids will have better opportunities in the schools that are benefitting from this donation.
I used to think it was bad for somebody to do this thing for the “wrong reasons.” It actually really bothered me. Now I realize that even though some of these acts are done with selfish motives, people are still being helped. The only one who could potentially be hurt by this is the person who is helping “selfishly.”
I do love to do mission work. These smiles are some of my reasons:
PS: Here is a little excerpt of my journal on the moral obligation to help others!
When I think back to the past, some issues really make me shake my head. How was slavery legal? How were millions of Jews tortured and killed during the Holocaust? Why was it illegal for women to vote? We look back at these issues and they seem simply preposterous. When studying the social issues of today that are normally just swept under a rug, it becomes clear that future generations will be doing a lot more head shaking.
There is one particular present issue that I believe will disappoint the future generations greatly. This issue is the uneven distribution of resources throughout the world. The wealth in our nation, along with several other progressive nations, is overwhelming. Of course we have areas of lesser income, but in general, we are a wealthy nation.
I think the future generations will be disappointed that we were forced to give to the less fortunate through taxes and the welfare systems, rather than out of the kindness of our hearts. It truly baffles me that there are many people out there buying multiple cars that are worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars or drinking $20,000 bottle of champagne.
With less than a $100, you could feed a family in many parts of this world for more than a month. Sometimes a $10 donation could be the difference between a child going to bed hungry or being full for a week. I do not believe that all luxury items are bad. Treats are good if they are bought modestly, but it is our duty to love and care for one another. I believe that our moral duty is the use the resources we are blessed with to help other.
When I have a steady income, I fully intend on starting a mission to educate young adults in third world countries. I want to be able to give kids dream and help them to make them come true. As a missionary, it has been difficult for me to see my friends around my age struggle to find food and lack the discipline to go to school. The kids we have worked with to send to elementary school grow up and often cannot to afford to further their education after their miserable excuse of a high school. Very rarely do we truly get through to them.
On our last trip to the Dominican Republic, we had a very serious talk with all of the kids about the importance of them carrying on the mission. Since last July, the “street kids” (who are the teenagers who have grown up knowing my priest, the founder of the mission) have been going to the Infant Nutrition Center and the “guardaria” (which is the pre/elementary school that my church sponsors) every week. The one boy borrows his cousin’s cellphone and sends me pictures each week.
Last week, one of the kids made a very touching Facebook post. (Yes, they have Facebook. They shine shoes and take the coins to the internet cafe.) His post was a picture of the baby and it said in Spanish, “One day I hope that God gives me something in the future so I can help the most needy.” This brought tears to my eyes. This is how we know that the mission has been successful.
I am a firm believer in helping others. I feel that it is my moral duty to do the most good that is possible for me to do with the resources available to me (i.e. income, time, my talents, etc.)
After the discussions during my presentation [on moral obligation to help other], I learned that not many people in our class have the same view as me, which concerned me because I had perceived my classmates to be those who were truly passionate about helping others globally.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual to give what they feel they ought to. Our American culture has no set moral standard of giving, and even if we did, I don’t know that many people would follow it.
It is easy to tie this moral obligation to a duty to care for all of the beautiful people made in God’s image (which would be a very Christian approach), but not every American believes in God. I appreciate the beauty that is present in all forms of life, especially my fellow humans. If I was struggling, I would hope that others of my species would step forward and help me.