Does Distance Matter?


How far is too far?

Walking back from a visit to the Elementary School we have adopted,  a discarded plastic drink bottle lay in the sidewalk.  I should have picked it up.

I didn’t.

I almost did.  I usually do, but here’s the deal:  after seeing that and thinking I would pick it up, I scanned for other litter.  There were several other things nearby, say, within 5 yards of the sidewalk.

I didn’t feel like walking that far out of my way to pick up that trash.  I figured that if I did, I would somehow be obligating myself to police the entire area.

To avoid the obligation of picking up ALL TRASH, I picked up no trash.

Litter-wise this is a fail, but not an epic fail.  I could very well have picked up any or all of the trash, or some amount in between and have done better than deciding to walk by it all.

Life-analogy-wise, this was, I think, an epic-fail.

Feeling paralyzed by the thought of all the good that could, that should, be done around the world is not, I believe, an acceptable excuse for doing nothing for anyone.

I cannot reach the needs of everyone, but I cannot allow that to keep me from helping meet the needs of some.

Does distance matter?  It seems to: mission trips are all the rage, and some of this is energized by the desire to help those who are far away.

Ideally, travelling great distances to serve others ought to motivate, energize, and catalyze us to be more attentive and responsive to needs nearby.

The cynic in me wants to observe here that all these mission trips we’ve gone on have not done a great job of energizing us at home.

My unwillingness to pick up a single piece of trash reminds me not to lay my cynicism on others.

One thought on “Does Distance Matter?

  1. I’m reminded of the story about the boy that threw sand dollars back into the ocean. There were thousands of the little creatures all over the beach, yet the boy continued to pick one up and throw it back into the ocean. An observer noted that he couldn’t make a difference and the boy replied that for “that one” he just did.

    Maybe you weren’t called to police all the trash, but even a few pieces of trash would have made a difference. Who knows, maybe your action could have been a visible example to follow, that another person might be moved to pick up some also.

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