I have been noticing a trend lately in our society. With the advent of social media, there has been a paradigm shift in the way we interact with each other. What was originally designed to bring us closer together, has in a sense separated us more than we ever have been in modern times. This separation has spread well beyond our interactions, but into our views, and our tolerance of differing opinions.
Take your pick of the topic. Gun control, LGBT rights, politics, welfare, spanking children, Black Lives Matter, #metoo, etc, etc….. I could go on and on. My newsfeed seems to be consumed with one person posting their views on a subject, followed by a series of literal arguments between “friends” about how the other person is flat wrong and thus commences the trading of insults. What ever happened to debating? What ever happened to respecting others for having a difference in opinion? Why has this country become so polarized?
Along with this social epidemic, our ability to display empathy has also gone out the window. With the incessant arguing that accompanies every post regarding whatever happens to be in the news these days, some people actually still use social media to tell people about what’s going on in their lives. The good, and the bad. We’ve all seen the posts where someone has informed their friends of a trial or tribulation that they are facing at that time, and the forthcoming comment thread is full of people sending their “thoughts and prayers”. Now, I am not discounting the power of prayer. I myself stop and express myself through prayer for my friend in need. But it seems that after seeing “thoughts and prayers” over and over again in the news feed that it takes away the sincerity of it all. How easy is it for us to glance over our friend’s misfortune, make a comment and then continue on scrolling. How easy is it for us to judge? What happens when we as a society take it a step further?
Recently I encountered just that on Facebook. A high school friend was expressing her frustration of the current political climate and healthcare as it related to her difficulty in obtaining social security disability insurance for a recent debilitating condition that has left her unable to continue to work. Among the “thoughts and prayers”, someone began to chime in essentially telling her that she needed to pick herself up by her bootstraps and that the only people who get on disability are those who are too lazy to work, and just want to take advantage of the system. This individual then told her to keep at it and she will find a way around it. This, as you could guess sparked quite the argument between this person and really, everyone else, myself included. It was this person’s mindset that there was always a way to adapt, improvise, and overcome what life threw at you and that there was no such thing as a handout, and those who have to depend on others are in that situation simply due to their failure to plan for all contingencies. When others presented him with scenarios that one couldn’t possibly account for, he simply redirected, dodged, and avoided answering the questions showing his complete inability to show empathy for anyone else. So myself being the smartass that I am decided to see how far I could take it to a point where he would have to show some kind of decency to his fellow human beings. I didn’t find that point.
“Ok, so let’s say you have planned for all these contingencies, and you have thought everything out. Then tomorrow, you suffer a massive stroke. You are paralyzed on one side, you have lost the inability to speak, and you no longer have control over your bowels. Your wife has to continue working because you are no longer able to. The nest egg you put back for savings is gone because of having to pay off your medical bills. What do you do?”
“That’s what I have long term disability insurance for.”
“Ok, great. So let’s say that after your physical therapy, you are somewhat able to take care of yourself and you unknowingly soil yourself while you’re at home. Your wife is at work, you are confined to a wheelchair, and are unable to get to the bathroom to properly clean yourself. You sit in your own filth for hours until your wife returns home to find that you’ve developed a pressure ulcer. The wound becomes infected and you are admitted to a skilled nursing facility for wound care and IV antibiotic therapy. You are carried under your wife’s insurance because long term disability doesn’t cover medical expense and your wife makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Your wife’s insurance only covers 30 days in the facility, but after that time, you are not ready for discharge. You rack up an enormous amount of debt for the remainder of your stay. What do you do?”
“I will starve myself to death.”
“Nope, sorry. because of your stroke, your swallowing capabilities are compromised and your wife had the doctors place a permanent feeding tube in the event you were unable to take food orally.”
“My wife wouldn’t do that. She knows my wishes and I’m a DNR.”
“DNR is only for if your heart stops beating and you don’t want CPR. Also, you are unable to speak for yourself, so your wife becomes durable power of attorney of healthcare, making your decisions for you. She is grief stricken and doesn’t want to watch you slowly die, so she goes against your wishes to keep you alive.”
“I refuse to be a burden on my family. I would kill myself.”
“Seriously? You’d leave behind your wife and kids just so you’re not a burden?”
“That’s what life insurance is for. They’d be taken care of.”
“You would leave your children without a father?”
“They will learn to overcome….”
Wow, I was absolutely flabbergasted at the fact that this person thought his family would be better off without him if he was disabled. He was completely unable to put himself in other people’s position and just told them to suck it up. Thinking about the conversation for the next several hours, I found my mind going to a very dark place. Is this what our society has become? Do people really think like this? Have we become so narcissistic that we can’t think past the end of our smartphones as to how our actions affect other people?
I spent the next several days off of all social media. Scenes from the movie Idiocracy played through my head. Thoughts of prepping for the end of days and how and what skills I needed to teach my girls in order to survive the downfall of society ran through my head. I ran simulations of what to do and where to go given various situations. In the coming days, I put these thoughts to rest, allowing reality to settle back in and realize that the majority of people are good natured.
The funny thing about prayer is, you never know when or how they are going to be answered, or in what manner. Last night, as myself and my family gathered around the dinner table, I lit the candles on the advent wreath and invited everyone to say the blessing….
“Bless us O Lord, for these thy gifts for which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen”
Without skipping a beat, my daughter continued, eyes closed, hands folded….J
“Dear Jesus, please help all the lonely children who don’t have mommies or daddies to find strangers to love them and be their mommies and daddies for them so they don’t have to be lonely anymore and so they are no longer strangers. Amen”
The Gospel of Matthew speaks of revealing God’s power and strength to the children and that from the mouth of babes shall the Lord’s praises be sung. My wife and I both stopped dead in our tracks looking at our daughter. We both gave her a hug and told her that she was a very loving person for praying for such a beautiful thing for people you don’t even know. We didn’t coach her to say this, nor do we know where she got it from. But in that moment, I couldn’t have been prouder. And in her innocence and compassion, I am given hope for a brighter future. In the meantime, I offer all of you reading this, my thoughts and prayers. God Bless.