Why should I care about you? Why should I care about your problems, your challenges, whether or not your day is going well, your child is sick, or your job is stressful? I don't even know you and may never even meet you. Why do you, a stranger, matter to someone who will never know your name?
Because it's the right thing to do.
I'm not a touchy-feely, hand-holding, let's sing "Kumbaya" sort of fellow. I don't protest. I don't go to a house of worship or even own a ribbon-shaped car magnet. I worry about the country, but I don't expect the people running for office to be saviors. I love America but I see no need to smack you around if you want to ask questions about our policies. In short, I'm a fairly average, not even close to extreme, guy next door.
I care. Deeply. It just comes out in different ways. Not often in anger (although I have my moments - just ask my wife and son), and rarely in tears (although, again, I've had my share), and rarer still in debates and discussions, because I find people often have a much better grasp on their specific points of view than I do.
The way I illustrate my compassion and my need to reach out to my fellow living creatures is by getting involved with the groups working hard to get things done. I volunteer, in whatever level of comfort I can muster. I look into people helping others and then I show up. Sometimes I offer to do grunt work. On occasion I will write checks. Other times I will take a board position and share ideas and - much more importantly - listen to others' ideas. Again, I show up, and that makes all the difference.
Admittedly, I was raised by one of the most caring, involved, inspiring people God has created. My mother worked in the prison systems in Britain and America, went into the area school systems when tragedies happened, put herself through school so that she could help others by being better educated, reached out to people suffering from addiction on every level. In more recent years, she has worked with parents of murdered children, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and has given of herself to groups fighting domestic abuse, among many other causes.
Her belief that we are all in this together has spurred me for decades. As a young adult, I volunteered for organizations that protect children from dangers in the home, assembled items for food cupboards, sponsored children in Third-World countries, raised money for veterans and active-duty soldiers, and contributed to several animals groups. Today, I serve on a school board, volunteer for an educational foundation, attend taskforce meetings combating suicide, and have joined the board of the Women's Center of Montgomery County. I am a member of a local Rotary, an international organization that helps strangers in so many ways it'd make your head spin. I've written and illustrated a children's book with all proceeds going to a local Police Athletic League and Citizens and Police Together group, to support community-building initiatives that help children, families, the police, and our neighborhoods.
If it sounds like I'm patting myself on the back, I apologize. That's not my intent. My point is to remind you of something about which you may need no reminders - that there is so much need and there are so many different ways you can help. There are children going hungry in Philadelphia. There are seniors unable to pay their bills. There are animals being abused, veterans left alone after their service to the country, people in every neighborhood struggling with mental illness, drug abuse, and worse.
We need each other. We have to come together, to give of ourselves and to offer an outstretched hand. It isn't easy work and sometimes we can get overwhelmed by all the need. But, in those moments, maybe we can retreat for a day or so and nurse ourselves a bit until we feel strong enough, and then get back out there.
Why should I care about you? Because we're all in this together.
Daniel Kaye is the director of life enrichment at Rydal Park in Abington and author of "Never Take a Hermit Crab for Granted," which will be released Sept. 18 email@example.com