On Obligation, Hurricanes, and Humility

What is our responsibility to each other as people?

As Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose effortlessly rip apart people’s lives, I sit comfortably at my ivory tower of a desk, only worrying about my unfinished Astronomy homework. I know I can text HARVEY to 90999, as it’s been recited by every podcaster, radio personality, and television anchor over the last few weeks.

And yet, have I donated? No. Why? Probably because I’m a bad person.

I can afford the $10 donation. It’s as easy as it could possibly be. And yet I find myself coming back to a familiar conclusion: I didn’t do it to them, so why should help?

Yes, that is a terrible mindset. If everyone was like me, the world would be a selfish, uncharitable place. But here’s a deeper question: Are we obligated to help our fellow man?

On a rational level, I want to say no. I want to say that we are all just random marbles bouncing off each other at random in God’s preschooler’s Hungry Hungry Hippos board game. That nothing we do really matters and the concepts of good and bad are subjectively made up.

But I’m human, and I’ve got a heart. I have sympathy for the people affected by the disasters. I know it wasn’t my fault, but if I were in their shoes, I would appreciate all the help I could get.

Here’s how cynical my mind tends to be; I can feel my analytical side of this tug-o-war arguing that “Maybe these people should have evacuated sooner, or had a better emergency fund, or gotten a hurricane-proof house!” Like… really Sean? If a hurricane hit East Lyme, CT right now, I doubt my parents would have a plan. I certainly wouldn’t, so I’d be following their ill-prepared guidance.

And you know for a fact I’d hit that ctrl+a del and start writing some statistic about how if everyone donated .01% of their salary, all victims would be able to buy their homes back three times.

So I’ve chosen to go the No Country for Old Men route, and be a bad person, but a bad person with principles.

This principle is transparency. Although I know admitting all this turns walls into windows, as I let the world see my shame, I hope my humility translates to you putting trust in me. Because trust is like crack for journalists.

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