Nella Coiro

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The term “Am I my brothers keeper?“ originally came from the Bible (although all religions and spiritual traditions share this philosophy.) As the story goes, when Cain killed his brother Abel, God asked Cain where Abel was, and he defensively responded, “How should I know. Am I my brothers keeper?” In other words, was he responsible for his brother? Cain hated and was envious of his brother, killed him in cold blood, and he was annoyed by the question. 

Over the years, the meaning of these words has taken on a different meaning. When I was younger, this phrase meant that, in the spirit of brotherhood, we should have an attitude of caring about and helping each other. There was a time, not very long ago, when people looked out for and empathized with each other, and were more respectful of one another. A lot has changed since then.

This led me to think about what this sentiment means in our society today.

Although we still have heroic first responders and health care professionals who will risk their lives to help or save other people, they are a small fraction of society. In general, however, our society has become more selfish and self-absorbed. More and more people have a me-first attitude, and many people care less about each other than they used to. It’s also alarming to note that increasing numbers of people lack empathy. 

Here are some examples:

Let’s begin by looking at the battle of wearing masks. Years ago, this battle wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t even think of putting someone else in danger if asked to take a simple preventive measure. They didn’t have this me-first and I don’t care about you attitude. In the middle of a pandemic where hundreds of thousands of people have died, there are people who refuse to wear a mask, not only to protect themselves, but to protect those around them. Why? (Needless to say, there are political reasons, but I try to avoid discussing politics in my blogs.)

Let’s talk about the holidays. I understand that people want to be with their extended families during the holidays. But, aren’t they putting their selfish desire to be with certain family members ahead of that person’s health? How is going against CDC guidelines doing the loving thing? Experts have told us that the biggest spread of the coronavirus happens during small residential gatherings where there are people from different households sitting around a table, without social distancing, and people are not wearing masks. In fact, after Halloween, as a result of people having small Halloween parties, there was a surge in cases.

And so, I just don’t get it.

While we’re on this topic, have you noticed that all of the television commercials are encouraging people to holiday shop? For example, the Fed-Ex commercial with the song “I’ll be home for the Christmas“, and the Post Office and Amazon commercials where they are delivering packages, and all of the retail outlet advertisements that encourage shopping for Christmas presents? Are they living in an alternative reality? It’s sad enough that people have been encouraged, for health safety issues, not to be around extended family members during the holidays. This doesn’t help.

Has the rigidity of tradition blinded people to doing the loving and sometimes difficult thing, even if it requires sacrifice?

So, how did we get here and does that matter? The more important questions are: How do we change? How do we get back to the attitude of caring about one another in a selfless loving way, even when it might be at our own expense?

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