As a lot of people heard, almost two weeks ago there was a tragic accident at our zoo. A toddler boy was being held up to look into an area of Wild dogs and fell in. The dogs attacked and killed the boy within minutes, if not seconds.
This is obviously horrible for everyone who has heard, but it hit me hard for many reasons. First, the wild dogs were taken from Zimbabwe and brought to Pennsylvania. I grew up in Zimbabwe and have always found the African Wild Dogs a special exhibit. Secondly, I was just at the zoo 3 days earlier with a large group of children. I was just there!
When my husband told me what happened, the first thing I said was, “Did the mother jump in?” Now, it’s very easy to speculate in the calmness of our living rooms exactly what we would have done and not done, but reality will show that some who speak as heroes may stand frozen in shock or fear, where others who see themselves as unable to take steps of heroism may find themselves acting in ways they would never have imagined possible.
For this reason, hypothetical questions fall short….but they sometimes show us what is in our hearts or what we fear.
Like I said, this event affected me deeply. I could not stop asking why no one (or a group of people) jumped in to save this tiny boy. I couldn’t help asking myself, “What would I have done if that had happened while I was standing there only 3 days earlier?” I know that if it were my own child, I would not have hesitated to jump in. I wouldn’t have cared if I was killed, it just would have been something I would have had to do (after yelling at my other children to not follow me). But then I asked myself, would I have jumped in if it wasn’t my own child? I think everyone felt helpless, and I know things are entirely different if you are there. But this is a question I asked myself. I would like to think that I would have (hopefully yelling for other people to come with me).
But what impacted me for days afterward was a tiny hesitation in my mind. How dare I even hesitate in my mind after knowing that Scripture teaches me to love my neighbor as myself!!?? We had read Romans 5: 7-8 that very day, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Are we not called to be like Christ, unto death?
What does it really mean to love our neighbors like we love ourselves? In reality, I love myself a lot. In reality, I protect myself, take care of myself, and give myself lovely things. Though selfishness is spoken against, loving ourselves to the point of taking care of ourselves and living happily is not seen as a bad thing – in and of itself. Some go to the extreme and put off anything that may bring comfort and joy, while some go to the other extreme and focus so much on themselves that they focus on God’s blessings for themselves almost continuously. There has to be a medium ground.
Nevertheless, I love and take care of myself and my family a great deal. I stay at home with my kids. Serving my family takes up a great deal of my time. Do I really love my neighbor as much as I love my kids?
I really don’t know what else to say….It is something I will hopefully ask myself for the rest of my life.