Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Proximity: Hitting Close to Home

Earlier in the summer I began talking about my thoughts on "inspiration overload," especially as inspiration has, as I see it, began to replace the influence of information.

I was rushing home from work today, thinking about how so often we're actually inspired by what is near us, what see, experience, or at least have some sense of context regarding. I imagine if you live near the Utah area were the mine recently collapsed, that event effects you more than if you live in Australia. Or the thought of starving children in Africa means much more to you if you went on a church trip and saw the starvation and hardships young African children in Ethiopia are experiencing. Or if you know someone who has died of cancer, campaigns and fundraisers to raise funds for cancer research mean more to you.

Proximity and context begin to share what we care about, and I believe as we become over inspired, an image of a starving child I can feed for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day will only effect me for a moment of sorrow, and probably not long enough to pick up the phone. The power of images become limited. Instead, if I see in person, or have some sort of proximity experience, then it will hit close to home and call me to action.

As I'm having these thoughts I rush out of the grocery store and suddenly hear a loud honking horn, and then a "crunch" sound. There before me, an aisle over I see a young-30 something year old girl has backed up her small SUV into a guy driving a four-door sedan.

In that moment, and as I saw the ladies face I felt so bad for her. It's sad that in a world were forced to buy and pay for expensive car insurance, we can get so bummed out to experience a minor fender bender. No one was hurt, the damage was minimal, but in that moment I (and a few other people around) surely felt the angst over a relatively harmless accident.

I wanted to rush over and write the girl a check for one hundred dollars just to help out with her insurance deductible and rising premiums she'll experience. Oh, I know one hundred dollars could be better served in some other areas, donated to some other causes, but in that moment this was the experience hitting close to home, not the starving child, not the abuse of women in the middle east, not leukemia, or mine workers in Utah.

I didn't write the lady a check, but I wanted to. And even hours later I'm thinking about it.

What causes hit home with you?

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nate said...

wow...nice blog, great insight. To be honest, I'm not big into movies, so this blog "hits home" more than the rest. Your helplessness resonates with me...you could not stop the fender bender, the angst, or reverse the consequences. Right after I got married, all of my friends did the same in dominoe fashion. We all began to wonder (in the privacy of our thoughts) who would get divorced first, because statistically at least 2 couples out of our bunch would go through the horrific experience. Probably, everyone thought it would be me first. Well, the first of us, my best friend, is in the middle of it right now. Unexpected, tragic, helpless, and very close in proximity.

Terence Towles Canote said...

To be quite honest, I think the closer to home a problem is, the more important it will be toa person. I hate to admit it, but I don't think often about starving children in Africa or Indonesia, but I do worry about the state of health care in the United States. I think seeing something first hand makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

I read an article last week talking about Darfur. When something gets big (millions killed, etc.) our brains can't really comprehend it and just move on. But when faced with the face and story of one starving child, we react with emotion and support.

I think it's the same thing here. If you heard a news story about the thousands of fender benders each year and the financial and emotional strain it places on people, it wouldn't have hit you with any emotion at all. But you had a face - an expression - in a moment.

Maybe proximity matters because it's easier to put a face and a story with someone next door than with someone across an ocean...

Southern (in)Sanity said...

I know that feeling. And then, to contrast, you have the people who back up without looking, or drive through the parking lot doing about 40 miles an hour - and nothing ever happens to them.

It's just not fair.

Grete said...

I hope you're nearby the next time I get in an accident! :)

Aaron said...

My oldest son is autistic.

Both of my sons are obese.

My mother-in-law died of cancer.

My father is going deaf.

My mother is diabetic.

I have Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

My wife suffers from depression.

But most of all, my arm is getting tired from all the rubber wristbands I'm lugging around!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

My nearly paid for truck got totalled by another truck owned by an illegal alien without insurance just a few weeks ago.

An illegal alien with a long record of drunk driving offenses killed a family last week close to home.

My Papi paid a lot of money and waited a lot of time to do things the right way through Immigration.

I'll let you guess what my new cause is.

Lorna said...

I saw a t-shirt the other day that said "Think Globally, Act Neighbourly"---I wish I could send it to you

jasdye said...

traditionally, the things that have really hit close to home for me (and still do) have been indifferences to injustice. specifically, of a racial and socio-economic factor.

but now that i have a wife and newborn daughter, i'm definitely paying more attention to gender issues (not that i was totally oblivious, but i did come from a home of five boys) as well as a more profound respect of parental/children issues (insurance being one of them; neglect being another; nasty-looks from unsympathetic singletons being another).

good post, again, rc.

Jamie Dawn said...

You said a lot of truthful and thought provoking things here. I think we should do what we can in our own little corner of the world. Your desire to help that woman was a good one, and maybe next time, you will act on that desire to help someone nearby when the circumstance arises.
I have a lot of empathy for a lot of people and causes. I wish I had billions of dollars to give and give to try and ease the world's pain.
I know I cannot move mountains, but I can do a small thing to brighten someone's day.

Douglas said...

Nice post. Education and pro-life work for me. Education was my family's trip over a couple generations from unskilled labor to skilled labor to professional. Pro-life work because of my mom's example. I only heard the snippets of the story of her own abortion twice, but it had a profound effect on me to learn that her pregnancy with me was when the horror of what she had done really hit home. She had been told it was a blob of tissue she was getting rid of. Yet, she was listening to my hearbeat in-utero at the same stage as when she had her abortion... and those where the days before ultrasound images were available.