This morning a woman who seemingly had nothing asked me for some money for a sandwich. I did not have any money on me, since I was on my way to the gym. Everyday someone asks me for some money for food and I can’t help see some routine response (both inner and outer) occurring from me. I am reminded of Elie Wiesel or Howard Zinn, and that there is no such thing as neutrality. Apathy or numbness just doesn’t cut it. I will be reflecting on my relationship to suffering in front of me, and spreading some kindness this week.
“We must always take sides,” Elie Wiesel urged in his spectacular Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” And yet part of the human tragedy is that despite our best intentions and our most ardent ideals, we often lull ourselves into neutrality in the face of injustice — be it out of fear for our own stability, or lack of confidence in our ability to make a difference, or that most poisonous foible of the soul, the two-headed snake of cynicism and apathy.