It seemed a most tragic irony: during the week we Americans give prayerful thanks for bounty and blessings, an unruly crowd of "holiday" shoppers hell-bent on bargains smashed in the front door of a Long Island Wal-Mart store at 5 a.m. and trampled a store employee to death in the mad rush for merchandise (read about it here and here). Meanwhile, hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in India were being indiscriminately slaughtered by their ethnic brethren for the apparent purpose of making a political point (read about it here).
What strikes me as common to these seemingly disparate incidents is the perpetrators' utter indifference to the divine source and infinite value of human life. When one believes to the core that every individual is a unique creation of God Himself (see, e.g., Gen. 1:27; Psalm 139:13-16), it would be unthinkable to waste His other children like this. But without a true faith in God and the pricelessness of His highest creation, it is the Self that rules--other people are just instruments to be used, or obstacles to be run over or eliminated, in the pursuit of My Wants, My Needs, My Goals. Dressing Selfishness up in the trappings of higher justice, religion, nation, or tribe--let alone in those of economic need or "holiday spirit"--is an empty rationalization, and changes nothing. The further we stray from our Heavenly Father (by whatever name we call Him), the deeper we sink into the pit of depravity. It would be easy to despair and withdraw from The Struggle, were it not for our faith that the innocent and pure of heart shall see God (Mat 5:8), and for the incredible example of heroes like Sandra Samuel, the Indian nanny who risked her own life to rescue 2-year-old Moshe Holtzberg from the attack at Mumbai's Chabad Jewish Centre which killed his parents (read about them here), and who is expected to be named by Israel as "Righteous Among the Gentiles," an honor usually reserved for those who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust (read about it here and here). May the world never run out of Holtzbergs and Samuels; we need them so much as reminders of what true humanity is all about. And let us look inside ourselves each day to guard against the pettiness, greed, and arrogance that leads one to treat others like things, instead of like the miracle that each one of us is.