As a youngster standing with my mother at the supermarket checkout waiting for the groceries to be tabulated, I would view the magazine rack with interest. The biggest magazine featured the biggest subject, Life. Society itself seemed concerned with the larger view and with global interests. The desire to expand one's horizons and make an impact on the wider community colored one's view of the future. As the years past, the focus began to narrow. The next popular arrival on the magazine rack was People. All right, that included everyone and we all would benefit by being aware of what was happening in the world of people. Later on, however, the highlighted magazine was entitled Us. Was it possible that society was interested only in itself? Time passed and then came the inevitable – Self magazine. Thus, it turns out that it is "all about me."
Decades of emphasis on the growth and development of aggressive self-esteem has fashioned a psyche that dehumanizes others and deifies the individual. The impact on society by generations of such custom designed personalities is predictable: self-centeredness, alienation, and a perfidious self-interest. One need not be surprised that the consequent effects would be devastating to relationships between groups and individuals. Nurturing a friendship and, especially, a marriage became a highly unpredictable enterprise. Interactions between people are measured according to their usefulness or profitability. The old idea of companies being loyal to their employees and of employees being loyal to their companies, for the most part, has dissolved away. No wonder that sports fans now root for the uniform rather than the player.
Looking toward the horizon, there still exists within us, especially among the young, a ready response to sacrificing time and energy in order to help the less fortunate. Parish Youth Groups enthusiastically volunteer for programs designed to bring aid to the sick, poor, and homeless. Annually, New York City conducts what is known as a Midnight Run. Parish groups collect and bring needed goods to a designated spot in the city and travel a route that brings them to gatherings of homeless people who gratefully receive food and clothing. As important as this distribution of goods is, the most important message is the emphasis that Christian moral values manifest themselves in caring for the worth of all human beings and putting that belief into action not only through the sharing of necessities, but also by performing these charitable acts with an awareness of giving respect and dignity to those who receive little of that "food for the soul" in their daily existence. From this and other forms of Christian witness, the seed of a wider application of respect and worth may be sown. When we say that we believe in all that God has done for us, we ought to recognize that God believes in all that we can do for all his children.
Every human being has some handle by which he may be lifted, some groove in which he was meant to run; and the great work of his life, as far as our relations with each other are concerned, is to lift each one by his own proper handle, and run each one in his own proper groove.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
As the 21st Century adds years to its maturity, one can hope that, once again, a Christian consciousness will spread and will beckon everyone to increase their caring and their good will toward the goal of revitalizing societal well-being beyond the self, to all of us, to all people, and to life itself.