Principles of an ‘Ethics of Care’: Making a Concrete Commitment to Your Neighbor By Cameo C. Anders, JD, MA
“The concept of “neighbour” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. … we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgement (cf. Mt 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life's worth or lack thereof.” ~Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI
Who is my neighbor? This is the age-old question revolutionized by Christ. He expanded the concept of neighbor to include, not just those of the same cultures and beliefs, but everyone. Not a generic, abstract ‘everyone,’ but the concrete individual with a face and a name; with a soul and a wound that needs healing. In a time focused on being cognizant of our cultural ignorance and the need to reach out and love others, it is also a good time to remind ourselves that this need, and the command to love, was a paramount parable of Christ’s teaching. Even more, it is the criterion by which our life’s worth will be measured. If this is so, then, above all else, we should dedicate ourselves to loving well! While the Church solidly teaches that the worth of our life is invaluable, immeasurable; that all life is sacred (CCC 2258), she also teaches that “at the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (CCC 1022; cf St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64. ). This is a weighty scale on which to be weighed, yet we have concrete guidance. Here. Now. Make a practical commitment of love to our neighbor. The Good Samaritan, a paramount parable of Christ’s teaching, did just that. We can do just that. The Catholic Community Foundation can help…but before we tell you how, let’s consider a modern version of the parable of the Good Samaritan…
Samantha traveled the same road to work every day. It was a treacherous road full of potholes and unfinished construction. It brought her through a rough neighborhood, run down houses, a little church with boarded up windows, and hungry, forlorn children walking to school (looking down at their screens). The school playground was overgrown with weeds and thistles. Samantha often wanted to stop and give money to the church for new windows, but it was never open when she drove by -and how could she be certain the money would be spent for the windows. One day, she brought extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for those children who gathered every morning on the corner looking hungry and forlorn (and perhaps a bit dazed from too much blue light) but then thought better of handing them out. She would seem creepy, and what if they had allergies? Her thoughts and intentions to help remained abstract and undemanding…wandering back and forth between seeking a place that could mow the playground to mowing her own yard to remembering she was supposed to get her taxes in to her accountant…and her mind was off down a different track. The church and school and hungry kids would be forgotten until tomorrow when she passed them all again.
Wham! Crash! A loud noise brought her attention back to the moment. A man lay collapsed on the sidewalk beside her and a dark shadow was receding swiftly into the alley with a clumsy bulk in his arms. She slammed on her brakes. The man was bleeding and unconscious. She called 911. As the ambulance and police arrived, she wondered if there was a wife? A friend? Someone she should call? No one came out of the nearby houses to see if the man was ok. The church door creaked open as if someone was peering out, and then shut again. The hungry students on the street corner, seemingly unfazed by the event or the thief running off into the shadows, jeered at the man. From their jeers, it seemed he had met this fate before. It seemed he was the neighborhood vagabond who often wandered in this area in search of food, money, companionship…drugs. It was in that place, at that moment, that Samantha made a choice: she made a commitment in her mind to reach out in some way to that man, those children on the corner, the person in the church, the emergency services team in front of her. These were her neighbors, here, now. She also made the choice to help, not just to help this homeless man, or those hungry children, but to support systemic change far into the future, even beyond her own future. She wanted to help provide a safe place for this man and others like him, to feed those children and others who were hungry, to support the EMT and police officers who responded to this scene and to every scene. She needed a plan, a place to help her devise a plan. She wanted to provide care, support…and hope for these people, not just today, but tomorrow, and long after she had reached the ‘evening of her life.’
…to be continued.
Who are your neighbors? What commitment, here, now, is practical for you to make to them? If you are like Samantha, needing a plan and someone to help you devise it (hopefully not at the
scene of a crime) contact us at (605)988-3788. We look forward to helping you reach out to your neighbors in a practical commitment of love. Here. Now.