On Saturday the subject was; Can reciprocal altruism really explain the most extraordinary sacrifices that some people make?
It included the following lines, available here in the transcript;
Yet can reciprocal altruism really explain the most extraordinary sacrifices that some people make? Can genes really explain the price paid by Fr Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger at Auschwitz.
I suspect he was more driven by Christ's admonition that we love our enemies, do good, and expect nothing in return. From time to time one comes across an example of altruism, of sheer goodness that no biologist could ever explain.
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine took a year out of his own life to accompany a man suffering from a terrible degenerative disease on a tour of America. For 12 long months Joe drove Billy across the United States in a car specially adapted for his wheelchair, caring for him, helping to wash and feed him. He had no reason to do it other than a sense of fellowship. Joe won't be embarrassed by me mentioning this; he died suddenly this week, 10 months after Bruce's own death. Joe's story illuminates that being truly human takes far more than being a biological construct. Words don't always stretch far enough to explain it. A Christian might say it reveals the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But all of us would agree that it is love.
I woke up slightly more as I heard these words, and my response was a bit sweary. This woman, had just compared a man sacrificing his life for a stranger in a Nazi death camp, to her friend's decision to travel around the US for a year while working as staff to a disabled person?! Am I missing something?
Look at the language used, her friend 'took a year out of his own life to accompany a man suffering from a terrible degenerative disease'.
How did he take this year from his own life? Was he in a coma? No, he was working, possibly for low pay, or perhaps even just for expenses, and getting the chance to travel around America, presumably seeing the sights and staying in nice places. All this, for '12 long months'. Were they travelling extremely fast in that 'car specially adapted for his wheelchair', and perhaps experiencing some time dilation?
'He had no reason to do it other than a sense of fellowship.'
Was he forced to take the job? Did he not enjoy it? Was there really no other reason than a 'sense of fellowship'? Perhaps Joe too wanted to travel around the US and this provided a good opportunity. Perhaps Joe and Billy got on really well and had an absolute blast on their road trip, no matter that one of them required services from the other. I hope so.
It's terribly sad that both these young men died so soon after each other, one's death being presumably sudden and unexpected. But it's sad that the people left behind are interpreting that time as a terrible waste of a year in his life. What should he have been doing instead?
Loads of us are caring for a disabled person. That's not a 'most extraordinary sacrifice', it's just life. And especially when a person's job is to care for another, that's just work. It's good and worthwhile work, not well enough paid, and from what I hear, there are some excellent staff out there supporting and enabling their clients.