Saturday, July 28, 2012

Caring For Others

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. — Philippians 2:3–4 (NASB95)

Yvette Vickers, a former [model] and B-movie star, best known for her role in Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, would have been 83 in August 2011, but nobody knows exactly how old she was when she died. According to the Los Angeles coroner's report, she lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actress, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in her mailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers's body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space. – Steven Marche, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" The Atlantic (May 2012)

Yvette Vickers isn’t the only person, surrounded by neighbors, and yet died without anyone knowing about it. Actually, something similar happened to me. We lived in an Atlanta, Georgia suburb and were next door neighbors to a couple who were very difficult to get to know. They were seldom seen, and when they were, they seldom even spoke. The husband was ill, and occasionally a hearse would come and load him up to take him somewhere for treatments of some kind. Once, after having not seen either of them for a while, another neighbor told me, “I think the man over there died.” It seems there was a time when the hearse took him away and never brought him back. Nobody in the neighborhood knew about it until after a few months. Needless to say, it was a little shocking.

That kind of thing will make you think. Maybe I should have been more proactive as a neighbor, maybe I should have gone over to check on him, maybe I should have offered to help. Maybe, maybe, maybe. So whenever I read blurbs like the one about Yvette Vickers, I think I understand how it happens. Sad, but it happens. The truth is I can’t take care of everybody. It does little good to go on a guilt trip. What’s better is to take a more active role among the people we already know. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t stretch beyond that, but if we all could just care for the people we know, it would do a world of good.

I’m pretty good at looking out for my own personal interests. I need to do better at looking out for yours. And you? Hey! I’m over here!