Friday, August 17, 2012
Help! We need somebody ...
Virtually all of my close friends in my college class (and those who graduated a year or two before I did) went into the so-called "helping professions." I don't know if that was a 60s sort of thing, a result of the emphasis at the college, a coincidence, or what--but it happened.
Claude and Charlie and Bart went into psychology--the latter two became practicing psychologists, the former a professor. Bill became an M.D. and spent his entire career in a small Ohio town in family practice. Dorothy became a teacher and professor. Karen became a nurse. Jimmy is still teaching. So are Bill and David. Marshall was a minister--as was his father before him. Rich worked for Hiram College. Sue was an elementary school teacher. And on and on and on.
Both of my parents were teachers. My one living grandfather was a professor and minister. My only uncle on my mother's side was also a professor and minister. My wife taught for more than forty years. So I grew up in a family and in a cultural community full of people devoted to helping other people.
In school and in church the adults taught us that helping others was perhaps our highest calling. We learned about the Good Samaritan. The Sermon on the Mount. We learned about the Jesus who helped the poor, the downtrodden, who healed the sick, who comforted the outcast, the reviled. We did not learn about a Jesus who was our Best Friend and who wanted us to be happy all the time--and rich. And no one taught us selfishness. They punished selfishness.
And so I find it profoundly disturbing these days to see that many Americans--especially many of those who love to call us a "Christian nation"--are so opposed to what I had always learned were the most essential elements of Christianity. Helping. Sharing. Accepting. Forgiving. Loving. Instead--many seem more intent on judging. Condemning. Excluding. Hating. These days I hear so many screams of derision and so few sighs of comfort. Anyone today who practiced what Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount would be labeled a "socialist." Sermon on the Mount--KJV (Some of it is harsh, true--but not those parts that deal with how we treat others.)
(And--on a side note--I find it ironic that so many who profess to disbelieve the theories of Darwin are often the ones most vocally preaching and practicing Social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog, the law of tooth and fang. I've-got-mine-and-I-earned-it-all! And too bad for you. You're not getting any of mine to help you with yours! I did it all myself!)
(The Richard Lester movie, of course, is archetypal Beatles' friskiness and silliness.)
The title track--"Help!"--is also the first song on the album and ended the year as the 7th most popular song (the Stones' "Satisfaction" was number 3). When I heard those lyrics the first time ... well, they just sounded familiar:
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured,
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round.
Help me, get my feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help me.
In a way, the lyrics spoke eloquently to my generation. There was so much we needed to do--Civil Rights, women's rights, voting rights, the Vietnam War. And there we so many who needed our help.
And nothing has really changed. So many folks still need help--still need to get their feet back on the ground. Who still cry "please" and reach up for us. Still need us to reach back and grasp their hands.
So why do so many of us slap away those extended hands? Or spit in them?