It is not unheard of that people stand outside of the National Blood Banks or, General Hospitals selling pints of blood for as high as TT$1500. What is sad about this is that the offer of a pint of blood at a price is made to people in vulnerable situations, namely, a personal or family medical crisis.
On this count alone, Trinidad and Tobago is morphing into being a callous and crass society.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned example, mounting evidence of our growing societal callousness and insensitivity are also demonstrated in reports of the robbing of dying or badly injured accident victims together with the robbing of drivers and passengers in traffic. These are cases of unscrupulous characters preying on the helplessness and vulnerability of other people.
Further to this, in times of natural disasters, it is also known that the price of food, water and hardware supplies skyrockets. Many businesses engage in price gouging and can be accused of preying on people’s vulnerability as well.
Clearly, empathy is a slowly disappearing social skill that we urgently need to teach and relearn. Capitalising on or, attempting to benefit from another human being’s vulnerability is immoral because it is wrong to force someone into making a decision in a personal crisis where their freedom may be limited.
Is there a Christian response, apart from the registering of protest via the media, to such immoral practices? Is there a practical response to a society that is quickly losing the skill of empathy?
Lent is a time that we should not only give up things via fasting and abstinence, but it is also a time to give away via almsgiving. Giving up and giving away are morally complementary.
We should really ‘give up’ in order to ‘give away’ to those who are socially and economically vulnerable. In so doing, we touch lives and develop the skill of empathy that is badly needed in our society.
Almsgiving can also involve not only giving away things but, giving away ourselves in service to others. The preeminent Christian symbol is the cross—upon which Christ ‘gave away’ himself for the salvation of the world.
Volunteerism is the almsgiving of ‘self’ to others without an expectation of payment in return. We must teach volunteerism and its cousin empathy, in our churches, schools and families. The call to almsgiving, which is not limited to Lent, must move us to practise empathy and volunteerism for the sake of others. We must see that helping others in their vulnerability is a moral and biblical injunction.
Whatever we do during Lent in an intense way—prayer, fasting and almsgiving—must be done throughout the rest of the year. May Lent teach us to volunteer during the rest of the year to assist those experiencing any kind of vulnerability.