Our Brother's Keeper – Or is That Somebody Else's Job?

Lately, this question has been circling my awareness and it seems to be screaming at me from all places. From the whole Obama/pastor snafu to my own personal life, it seems our connections to others or lack thereof are up for scrutiny.

It begs the question, is one responsible for those they know and what they do? I’m a bit on the fence about this because I can see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, every person is accountable for their own actions and words. Absent any kind of physical or emotional force (at least in America) people are not made to do or say things – in fact, we are the land of freedom of speech – no country has more personal freedoms than ours. So, from that point of view, no, we’re not responsible for the actions of others. On the other hand, no man is an island – despite the latest craze of cocooning and sort of running our worlds from the one-stop shop of our computer hubs – there actually are other people out there and we come into contact with them everyday. Whether through physical or cyber means. We all have a voice and our own brand of influence – we can change people’s minds and actions. We do it all the time. Don’t believe me? You see a little child about to run into the street – you stop them just as a car zooms by. A friend is distraught over a recent breakup and maybe thinking suicidal thoughts, you stay up the night talking them down from the ledge. Or even….you write a post about something that is bothering you on your blog – a stranger halfway around the world reads it and rethinks something they were going to do, perhaps even gains some insight or perspective on the situation and decides not to do something rash or decides to do something that ends up really helping someone. See where I’m going with this?

The world and life is full of choices, some good, some bad. We can bury our heads in our butts and pretend we don’t see things or recognize cries for help or we can open ourselves up to all and everything out there. And it’s the little things too that I think that sometimes mean the most. Sure, we like to all get involved in ’causes’ help fight drug abuse, breast cancer, MS, oppression in China, imprisoned bloggers, expose nasty politicians or corporate malfeasance and there’s nothing wrong with it. But there is so much going on right outside your own doorstep that I wonder if tending to that, doesn’t have a greater overall effect. Maybe it’s the trickle down effect – know what I mean? Where that one little action you take can change a whole sequence of events of which you are not even aware?

Today, Blog Catalogue is doing a blogger human rights event. The idea is to get all the bloggers to unite and discuss human rights across the world. A lofty goal and worthy too. And I thought about finding some big issue and writing about it – but instead I thought that big issues only become big because the little issues are ignored and left to fester. I wonder, if we all just did whatever we could to stop injustice and enhance the quality of life for all those around us (including ourselves) if the big issues would ever come to be. Don’t you?

I guess in the end, I do believe we are our brother’s keepers. And we wear that responsibility by the way we treat others and ourselves. By the way we reach out or pull back. By the way we view the world. By our attitudes and philosophies – by our inclinations to help or to harm – to share or compete. To me, human rights aren’t about some big issue ‘out there’ it’s about all the many little things in our own backyards.

What do you think?


8 thoughts on “Our Brother's Keeper – Or is That Somebody Else's Job?

  1. HI Annie, I love this idea of yours. YES. If our attitudes can influence outside of ourselves, we must be positive, cheerful, respectful and thus project that out into the world. So many quotes come to mind: “be the change you want to see in the world” which to me means I should be positive. and “Attitudes are Contagious – is yours worth catching?”

    Thanks for the GOOD THOUGHTS.

    Hey C!
    Thanks for your support on this post. LOL. I really do believe though that the little things make a huge difference in ourselves and in others. It’s so easy to dismiss people these days and go about your business. But you have to ask yourself – how good is a life with only you in it? Know what I mean?



  2. Hi WC,

    Good post. Better than mine I think, as somehow I got into rambling about the number of lawyers we have. Don’t, by the way, forget to list your post on blog catalog.

    As to your point, you make it well, but I respectively refuse to accept the responsibility. While I generally do what I can to help others, I’m just trying to build up enough karma to keep from returning as an earthworm, not acting from any sense of moral or legal duty, and I reserve the right to act completely differently tomorrow, with permission from my wife, of course.

    I also have to say that, yet again, we’re on the same wavelength as I once did, literally, talk a fellow student down from a ledge where she was about to test her new found ability to fly given to her by some truly bad drugs, and I also talked a neighbor, who’s wife had just left him, into taking the gun out of his mouth. Oh, and one time my wife did notice a toddler about to walk into traffic, stopped, and rescued the child. Maybe you should open a psychic blog?

    the Grit

    Oh Grit,
    for all your carping, you’ve got a big heart and you simply can’t hide it. I’m sure your post is quite good and I shall prove that soon enough. It was a bitch trying to figure out how to list the post with blog catalogue though – either they should make it easier or I shouldn’t be allowed to play with the big kids. 😉


  3. ” instead I thought that big issues only become big because the little issues are ignored and left to fester. I wonder, if we all just did whatever we could to stop injustice and enhance the quality of life for all those around us (including ourselves) if the big issues would ever come to be”

    This is really good. Little issues fester….that could cover everything from relationships in a marriage, significant other, friends, and being passive about what is happening in our little corner of the world..politically or anything where we may have an opportunity to speak up and exercise our choices..whether writing a letter, a call or face to face. I too wonder if situations we face..whether divorce..or an unstable society, loss…would come to be if we practiced the admonishment to ‘not go to bed angry’. Suck it up and talk it out..just do something a.s.a.p. instead of allowing little things and issues to fester. Molehill becomes a mountain..eh?

    “guess in the end, I do believe we are our brother’s keepers. And we wear that responsibility by the way we treat others and ourselves” I think sometimes we treat others better than we treat ourselves..then again…sometimes when we have big ole holes in our own heart..we treat others poorly perhaps by the way we perceive that we have been treated..perhaps that is why we bring the baggage of former relationships into 2nd marriages or a new relationship?

    Our brothers keeper? Yes, I believe that we are ideally supposed to be our brothers keeper. I would guess that we all have stories of perhaps making a dent in someones lives whether a loving dent or a huge bump that needs a lot of expensive repair. Many times we may never know…we are making a difference either for good or bad or indifference either way you cut it.

    Excellent post again Annie…Especially liked the comment above…”be the change you want to see in the world”. I remember praying once for God to change somebody….and I am positive He thought “Aha.. you are the one I want to change.. lol!

    LOL Ange, I think you’ve got something there – whenever we’re praying to God to change something, chances are, it’s us we should be trying to change. I think too, that talking things out or whatever you need to do, does make a difference. Of course, I don’t always practice what I preach but I try.



  4. Love the post, Annie.

    And I actually don’t believe I am my brother’s keeper or have any responsibility for anyone and full responsibility for myself. Meaning, whatever happens in my life is something I have chosen to bring into it at some level. And I might, at some level, choose to bring someone into it that can help me out of a tight spot, just as I might find myself wanting to be someone’s guardian angel for a second or a year but it’s, you know, the feel-like-it principle, the language of the soul.

    I think the end of suffering and lack will come about through a change of consciousness rather than doing stuff. The doing-stuff is the symptom, the changing-consciousness is the cure.

    Thanks, Hil!
    I understand what you mean. Though I think we do agree on one very important point – it’s the change of attitude that will change the world – not the programs or the ’causes’ so to speak. Have a great weekend.


  5. Lots of things to think about here. I tend to think it is an attitude thing that must change also. Because that is what will drive the right actions to meet the right end.

    Hey Teens!
    Yeah – I think it is an attitude thang – I really do. 🙂


  6. i tend to agree with Dave Donelson in a way.
    i’ve to say that i feel compassion for many though.

    i think the greatest way to effect positivity, change the world for the better, is one person at a time while having compassion for those beyond our personal interactions. Of course, i often become overwhelmed with sadness. Because while many are their brothers’ keepers, sadly, so many seek to destroy one another.

    Hey Christine,
    Yes, absolutely – one person at a time. And I understand the sadness too, I feel that way sometimes myself but I really wonder if we weren’t fed the 24/7 news if we would feel as sad as we do. Unfortunately, only the bad news gets delivered so there seems there is so much of it but we never really hear about the good stuff. I’d be willing to bet for every rotten, terrible thing that happens in the world there are ten great and good things that happen that we never know about unless we’re there. Know what I mean?


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