Yes. There is no other answer.
Pause for definition: “Brother” means any human on the planet other than you. In Genesis, God asked Cain where his slain brother, Abel, was. Cain responded, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?” God’s response was telling, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” Perhaps unwittingly, Cain was asking a question much broader than simply his responsibilities to his brother, Abel. And God answered equally broadly. We do not have to murder someone to fail in our responsibility to them. Simply ignoring them can be just as damaging. Even if we don’t know them.
Some years ago, my business would take me to Appleton, Wisconsin from time-to-time. I enjoyed staying at the Holiday Inn there because they had an attached full gym. This gym was complete enough to sell memberships; hotel guests had indoor, free access. Most hotel gyms have a few weights and one or two treadmills and a bike. In one gym, I had to get a ballpoint from the front desk to select weight amounts in weight stack machines, and to substitute for the pin that kept the seat post on the bike in place. Imagine for a moment how happy I was to have found this hotel gym! At the end of long day on the road, I would get in a good workout, and either have dinner out or order room service.
One evening after a long business day and a good workout, my traveling colleague, Dave, wanted to go out. I was beat, and did not. Dave prevailed, and out we went. We went to a local TGIF, and had a pleasant, late dinner. The next morning as I was packing to check out, I discovered that I had lost my wallet. Panic. How can I get on the plane? How can I get home? How could I even pay for meals or a taxi to the airport? What now?
As I was nervously explaining my predicament to the front desk clerk, explaining that I had likely left it at the restaurant the night before, the manager, “Don”, came out. Don suggested that I get my bags and meet him out front. He explained that his cousin worked as a bookkeeper at a rival hotel, and moonlighted as the night bookkeeper for that TGIF. We drove over to the other hotel, got the TGIF keys from the cousin, then drove to the closed TGIF where my wallet was indeed in the lost and found area. Don dropped me off at the airport in plenty of time for my flight. A cash “thank you” was gently declined; I later wrote a letter of appreciation to the owners of the hotel group that included that property.
You think the story is over? I haven’t even gotten to the punch line. Months later when I was again at that hotel, I saw Don and a group of businessmen having a meeting at a table in the lobby. Upon inquiry, I was told those were the owners. I went over, apologized for the interruption, and told them in person the story I had recounted in my letter. The punch line? Don was not embarrassed at the praise, or bothered by the interruption: He simply did not get it that I was making a big deal out of what he had done. To Don, what he had done for me was simply routine, like extending a guest a late checkout. I was Don’s brother, and he was my keeper.
How you handle your responsibility to your brother as his keeper depends somewhat on how your brother has handled his responsibilities to himself. If he refuses to help himself, despite teaching and encouragement (emphasis on the latter), then your responsibility is close to zero. Yes, you can provide life support, but a little of that can easily turn into a life sentence–a sentence that will create multi-generational dependency. But that is taken up in other blogs.
Here’s the point this blog is making: Your responsibility is always to be your brother’s keeper. His responsibility is to respond and pass it along to his (your/our) brothers.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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