Human beings have a way of making everything about themselves. For decades, the social critics have described this phenomenon (in America) as rugged individualism. It means that we tend to experience, interpret and draw conclusions from an individual perspective. It also means our capacity to empathize and act on behalf of others is often truncated. Our behavior is sadly driven by the question -- how does this benefit or threaten me?
This problem is not unique to Americans. Human nature, at least in part, is self-centered. One of our School Directors in Kibera had an experience last week that proved the point. She received a call from a concerned neighbor that a child was lying in the alleyway, and she needed to come immediately and get the child. She was outraged. She blasted the “good” neighbor, and asked him, “Why in God’s name didn’t you pick up the child and bring the child to safety?” Why in the world would you assume that being a Good Samaritan is someone else’s responsibility?
Christmas is of course an individual experience. For those who are religious, we have been sold on a theological proposition that God coming into the world is a benefit to us (individually). It is a gift that will make us feel better. Well, I am in full support of “feel good” experiences. But Christmas has been cheapened and coopted. Christmas is a matter of justice, and justice is about our inseparably intertwined fate. If gifts and opportunities aren’t for every child, then the promise of Christmas is a sham. Unless the blanket of justice covers the entire human family, we have misunderstood the story.
But the story in its true form has never been a sham. It declares that God comes to a poor family. It declares that the original crowd was poor. It declares that universal love belongs to everyone, or no one. Finally, it declares that a child in an alleyway belongs to everyone; and if you don’t pick up that child, you have fallen prey to your own fear and self-centeredness.
The story in its true form is beautiful and powerful. It is a story meant to tie us together. It is a story instructing us to be Good Samaritans – to pick each other up whenever and however we can. Crossing Thresholds is committed to this story.
Christmas isn’t about you unless it is about US. Let’s go to the alleyway. Let’s go to Kibera.
Founder and Executive Director