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Looking out for one another

Looking out for one another
Looking out for one another
Dr. Wayne Willis

Am I my sister’s keeper?

An 18 year-old was studying alone in a Corpus Christi Starbucks late one Saturday night. A stranger appeared and struck up a conversation. Several baristas, observing, wondered about her safety, concerned that the stranger might be up to no good. One of them, deciding to take action, grabbed a Styrofoam cup and wrote with felt tip pen, “Are you OK? Do you want us to intervene? If you do, take the lid off the cup.” She delivered the cup to the teenager, saying, “Have an extra hot chocolate someone forgot to pick up.”

The young woman did not remove the lid. She did let the baristas know she was OK. She said later that the whole team watched over her the whole time.

Popular author and atheist Richard Dawkins, in “The God Delusion,” contends that Darwinism can explain why people are kind and compassionate toward others. The reasons are utilitarian. Reciprocation works. We tend to repay favors given. Sometimes we give favors in anticipation of payback. Conspicuous generosity brings “unfakeably authentic advertising.” Big givers acquire a reputation for generosity. Behaving compassionately sets a good example for genetic kin, and this helps to preserve and extend the species.

The teenager’s grateful mother posted on Facebook a picture of the cup with the handwritten note, commenting, “To these Starbucks employees, and to anybody who stays aware of their surroundings and offers help when necessary, thank you.”

Maybe Darwinism is correct. It does pay to look after each other, to care about each other’s well-being. It helps save the species and improve living conditions. It’s also true that many of us believe we are heeding a divine injunction bearing down on us to love our neighbors, to be our sister or brother’s keeper.