Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Why Should I Care?

Many of us find it quite easy to take a cavalier attitude toward the problems of other people when those problems do not seem to affect us. Oh, we are usually civil enough to offer superficial sympathy - "I'm so sorry that's happening to you; the Lord will not give you more than you can bear; just trust in the Lord and keep going; you will be in my thoughts and prayers." We do not come right out and say, "Hey, that's your problem, not mine," but you can sense that spirit in our attitude.

Several years ago, retired Air Force Chaplain, Father Vern Schueller, sent me a parable that gives some insight as to how we tend to view the problems of others, and how our unfeeling attitude can come back to haunt us. Here it is. Read it and see if you can find yourself in it.

A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. What food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a mousetrap!

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, "There is a mousetrap in the house, there is a mousetrap in the house."

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell that this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house." "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse," sympathized the pig, "but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow, who replied, "Like wow, Mr. Mouse, a mousetrap. Am I in grave danger, duh?"

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. When she reach for the trap the snake bit her.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

His wife's sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well. In fact, she died. And, so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

We human beings tend to fan our egos with the illusion of self-sufficiency and independence. In the early 1600s John Donne reminded us of our basic connectedness with this classic line: "No man is an island entire of itself. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Poet, Francis Thompson, takes the concept of connectedness further. He wrote: "Touch a flower and disturb a star." No matter how you say it, there is a connectedness in all creation which we ignore at great peril.

So, the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem, and think it does not concern you, remember that when the least of us is threatened, we are all at risk.