I scared an elderly woman the other day. A few weeks ago, I was enjoying the fall activities that come with life in a temperate climate (raking), and I was driving home from somewhere when I saw an elderly woman raking. It looked like a struggle, she was hunched over and moving slowly, so I pulled over the car and asked if I could help. She said she was fine, but wouldn’t mind some help. So I picked up the kiddos and my dad to help watch them (he was expecting me at home), and we headed over with bags and rakes to help Evelyn.
I gradually realized how scary I might seem to her. She asked, “What church are you from?” (Churches in my area often send people out to help elderly folks with yardwork.) I told her I don’t actually live here. She asked a few more questions, trying to understand what I was doing, and I made it clear I expected no compensation—I genuinely enjoy raking leaves right now and wanted the opportunity to help someone. Really, she was helping me show my kids that it is nice to help others.
Ultimately, I realized that what I was doing was pretty scary. I just trucked on up from nowhere and wanted to help—a very suspicious thing in light of all the news stories alerting us to complicated ruses meant to distract homeowners while a partner robs them and so on. It is so sad to me that we live in an age when all motives need to be looked at carefully and suspiciously. It makes sense that a lot of people find Donald Trump refreshing—you know he is unfiltered enough that he will tell you what he really thinks. There are very few people like Noel Gallagher who will just honestly present themselves to the media, for better or worse. Everything and everyone is so politically correct and sanitized—it all just feels empty and predictable. We search for authenticity but it’s hard to find.
The bigger issue with our lack of trust is what we are all seeing play out in our newsfeeds at the moment. The Paris bombings have caused people to freak out further about the refugee crisis, with governors from more than half of the states saying they will not allow refugees from Syria to enter their state (this article states they can only request this, not ensure it). The US only admits 70,000 refugees per year into the entire country, while Germany admitted 40,000 last year (and Germany is 85% of the size of California). Though the US has the largest total percentage of the world’s immigrants, it still stands to reason based on size alone that we can handle more refugees, given the current crisis situation. Lebanon, only ¾ the size of Connecticut, has taken in 1.1 million registered refugees!
Why are we so afraid? Last year, the total number of people killed in terrorist attacks world over was 32,658. In the US alone, we lost 32,719 lives in 2013 in car accidents alone. We ought to be terrified to drive, not terrified to let people into the country. We are afraid to let our kids have any freedom in this “dangerous world,” lest they be abducted by a nefarious stranger. This is no greater a risk than it was 50 years ago when people didn’t lock their doors and were not so afraid of “nefarious strangers.” It’s almost laughable—I am personally more afraid of being in trouble with the police in the US for letting my kiddos have some freedom than I am of abduction, after reading about parents being arrested after letting their kids walk to nearby parks.
We trust nothing and no one these days, and that means no one helps each other anymore. Which is truly unfortunate, because research shows time and time again that we are happiest when we help others. But you can’t offer to rake a strangers leaves if they think you will rob them, and you certainly can’t offer a stranger walking in the rain a ride if they think you will murder them.
But help people I will (if they want it), and I will trust kindly strangers to help me when I need it. I refuse to live in a world where we have to fear one another.