Our guest writer is Daniel Buttry, author of Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Here is Dan’s third report…
More than 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” His call to service inspired a generation to work among the poor in the U.S. and join the Peace Corps around the world.
Today, however, service is eclipsed by selfishness. Ayn Rand’s philosophy that the individual “should exist for his own sake” seems to be winning. I see these values reflected in billionaires paying less in taxes than their employees—and the gap yawning between rich and poor.
An alternative to Ayn Rand was Dorothy Day, an American Mother Teresa with a radical political streak, serving the poorest of the poor in the inner cities of our country. She began the Catholic Worker movement with houses that fed the hungry and took in the homeless. She was a tireless advocate for peace. She is profiled in my new book: Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Day wrote, “We can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.” Love in our hearts—that’s what we need if we are going to face the massive challenges before us. If we look at the trends in our society, the value of selfishness is leading to deeper division, which at some point will blow with destructive horror as we’ve seen this month across Great Britain. Day called people to values rooted in love expressed in justice and mercy.
People who love so selflessly often are canonized as saints, whether by a religious body or by public sentiment. Day’s actions led to many people and institutions heaping honor on her, but she responded, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” That’s because we all have to deal with the question of selfishness or service in our own lives. It’s not a question just for the spiritual elite. It’s a question of central value in our lives. If we look around us we can find all kinds of amazing unsung heroes serving their neighbors and communities.
How do you see the tides of selfishness and service shifting?
Are there signs Dorothy Day or Ayn Rand might be “winning”?
What’s your prescription for encouraging service?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.