By Cap Kaylor
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — “Jesus never went out of his way to help any one.” I can sense the hair beginning to bristle on a thousand necks right now. Before people reach for their pitchforks and look around for some tar and feathers, let me just say that the words are taken from Quaker pastor Phil Gulley’s book, “Hometown Tales” in which he observes that “Jesus never went out of his way to help anybody” because helping people was never “out of his way.”
Helping others was the whole purpose of his life. It’s what he lived for. His legendary life of love is the reason he is revered by believers and non-believers alike. We love his story because it mirrors back to us the goodness we strive for and only occasionally glimpse within ourselves. But we all want to believe that such goodness is possible. Most of us feel we are doing our best simply by loving and providing for those within the inner orbit of family and friends. Content to write the occasional check for charity, helping strangers is not a full-time occupation for us.
But there are those around us who do more. Years ago my mother lived in a retirement community in Norman. Some of the folks there developed strong friendships, others kept to themselves. One winter someone there began pulling the fire alarm in the middle of the night — a lot.
Four or five times a week, the fire department would arrive amidst the high drama of wailing sirens, blaring horns and flashing lights. After a week of this you can imagine the prevailing mood among a hundred senior citizens forced from their beds into a cold parking lot in their pajamas at 3 a.m. Though the firefighters resembled giant killer bees in their black and yellow outfits, Grandma was ready to do some swatting. It may have been their fourth visit that week and, they too, had been awakened in the middle of the night, but the firefighters remained unfailingly polite and patient. That’s professionalism.
We are lucky to still receive the quality of police and fire service that we enjoy. We count on those services and expect them. But what about the services that all those “invisible” members of our community rely upon? Services to the poor, elderly and even our children?
During the last election the people of Oklahoma voted against tax increases that our teachers and schools relied upon. In Pauls Valley, the state hospital for the mentally handicapped will now have to close its doors. Where, I wonder, will all those people go?
We are constantly being told by our civic leaders that Oklahoma is exceptional, that our economy is humming along and that we have been more or less shielded from the larger economic crisis through which the country is struggling. Politicians make their careers by promising to slash taxes even further. That these taxes provide services to the “least among us” seems not to matter. I haven’t seen a scrap of campaign literature in years that doesn’t carry some version of, “Taxes are an assault on your liberty.” “Taxation equals tyranny.” “You know how to spend your money better than government does. “Vote for me and I’ll cut your taxes even more.”
Time to stop blubbering about taxes and remember what we get in return for them: Roads, schools, hospitals, care for the poor and elderly, protection. The strength of our social compact relies on the “we” being as important as the “me.”
Sounding a little like the sermon on the mount? Perhaps it is. Taxes are the way we communally live out the beatitudes. It’s how we “go out of our way to help others.”
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