There is a fine line between helper and enabler. Helping one another is a good thing. When that help prevents someone from being able to help themselves, is when it’s not good. This challenge is often present when family is the subject being discussed.
As Americans we pride ourselves on independence. Our country was founded with a clear declaration of it. Somehow we have confused the independence of a nation with the individuality of people and have attempted to assimilate that version of independence into our communities and interactions with each other.
Human beings are social creatures and we are born with a desire to belong and socialize. There is a reason why solitary confinement, whether it is used as a war tactic or on convicted criminals, has resulted in some of the people it’s used on “losing their minds”. We need interaction with each other for our own well-being and success.
One of the things I find interesting about immigrants in the USA, is their sense of community and desire to achieve. While I could write and entire segment on immigrants and their better understanding of the American Dream, that is not my purpose today. People who are not born in this country sometimes navigate the territory of America better than those of us that were born here. It’s the understanding that a sense of community and “sticking together” is a key component to overall success. How many Americans have laughed at “foreigners” that live together for decades and then turn around and complain when these same foreigners have purchased property that an “American” should own. All they did was help each other achieve a common goal. With the achievement of these goals, they end up strengthening and growing their communities.
There is a sense of balance that is required and mastered together as a unit that allows “these foreigners” to ultimately succeed. I started this topic with the idea that excessive help or enabling was not a positive. I stand by that. There is somehow a confusing element that can be created when someone believes that they are equal parts independent and entitled. As Americans we are told that all men are created equal and our pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in writing. It does not mean that we all entitled to have things equally or that our happiness is guaranteed. It’s our pursuit of that happiness that is guaranteed. It’s the understanding of the ideal that no individual in the eyes of our laws is more important than another. This is not to say that we should not pursue outside dreams, as I already said, the pursuit of happiness (dreams) is guaranteed. I am merely suggesting that we sometimes put too much emphasis on external accomplishments instead of focusing on internal or communal ones. Finding and keeping a balance is not always easy but the long-term results are worth it.
I believe there is a way to achieve the balance I referred to earlier. How? We should all become Good Samaritans. The Good Samaritan is one of the more popular biblical stories, I also realize that not everyone is familiar with it. I also believe that you don’t have to be a Christian to learn a lesson from it, any more than you have to be a child to enjoy and understand that Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, is really a lesson about trying new things. Here is the parable in a nutshell. There was a Jewish man who was robbed, badly beaten and left for dead. Three “religious” individuals saw the beaten man but made a conscious decision to not help and walked past him. A Samaritan, his enemy (think modern-day Israel and Palestine or Bloods and Crips), stopped, picked the man up, took him to the equivalent of that era’s hospital. He also told the caregivers to not worry about any additional expenses. The Samaritan said he would cover the extra costs upon his return.
Some people enjoy that story because it illustrates the hypocrisy of certain “religious types”. Others like that story because it is a classic “I am my brother’s keeper” illustration and highlights the need to be caring no matter what the circumstances are. The latter is normally the way sermons are prepared when telling this story in church. I enjoy this story for a different reason. I enjoy it for the balance shown by the Samaritan. He had a sense of community, realized that someone else needed his help and was willing to do whatever was within his power and ability to ensure the man was helped. Here is a point I belive is often missed. He also realized his own limitations and did not attempt to help in areas where someone else was better suited.
My personal summary of the story sounds like this. The Samaritan helped out when no else would and was willing to use every resource he had to ensure a complete recovery. The Samaritan understood the idea of community because while he was not the ideal guy for every task his actions prove, or at the very least suggest, that he did not expect the Jewish man to take care of himself and needed to enlist the assistance of others. The Jewish man’s responsibility was to receive the help, grower stronger and become healthy.
In the typical American family, we live the first 20 years (give or take a few) with our parents. We are then expected to go out and make it on our own for rest of our lives. The irony is, at some point during those next 60 years, adult children sometimes move back home and/or aging parents end up living with their adult children. What’s the point of leaving a “community”, if we ultimately need one another?
What if, we had a complete understanding of what it really means to be a Good Samaritan? It’s selflessly using our resources for the betterment of others, while understanding we need to partner with others to achieve a desired end result. Perhaps our families and by extension our communities would grow stronger and healthier and there would be no need for a “return” because our community is always there.