“Know your limits, but never stop trying to exceed them.”
— Author Unknown
If you ask anyone if they help other people, I suspect that unless they are true social outliers, or trying to get a laugh, they will say they do.
Yet, our willingness to help probably depends a lot on who is asking. Strictly from my own observations, we’re less willing to directly help (or interact with) people beyond our comfort zone, political beliefs, religious beliefs, skill set, economic class, or social status.
For example, if your neighbor asks for help fixing his fence, you might be willing to help. But if a husband and wife from a low economic class ask you to help mend fences between them, you may hesitate.
Are we willing to help veterans because we were in the military, yet unwilling to help a Muslim because we’re a Catholic? Are we willing to give food to our church to feed the hungry, but unwilling to give a food card to the smelly guy on the street corner? Would we be willing to send a thank you card to a relative, but unwilling to send a thank you card to the teacher?
Altruism seems to have it’s limits.
Yet, there are people and organizations out there that appear to have no limits to their generosity and kindness. The food pantry that always gives out food, no questions asked. The battered women’s shelter that refuses to turn away anyone no matter the hour. Or what about that lady who was always kind to you as a teenager, no matter how rude and self-absorbed you were?
We can come up with a lot of reasons why we may be less willing to help people outside our comfort zone. Some good, some bad. Some rational, some irrational. When time and money are a commodity, we tend to ration our assistance. Then justify it.
Perhaps though, instead of finding ways to justify whatever we give as good enough, it’s more important to recognize the tight boundaries of our help, to identify the self-imposed limits of what we will give, to recognize the narrow space of our generosity …
… and ask, “Why?”
After all, the limits of our generosity may be better explored than justified.
Today’s gift of time … Helped our exchange student get started at her American school. More to come on our newest family member.