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To shrink or to grow?

This is a reproach for me.  There have been too many opportunities lately where I have been able to assist people but have shied away rather than obeying the compulsion.  I can't explain why I do this.  I know only that I feel regret for it.  Regret and uncertainty.  In so many situations, I don't know what the "right" thing to do would be.

Last week, I was at the grocery store.  The family in front of me had placed nearly all of their groceries on the conveyor belt, but had left a few in the cart.  This was puzzling, but I've seen people break up their orders in two pieces before, so I didn't want to jump to any conclusions.  When the total was calculated, they grabbed one more item from the cart and handed it to the cashier, then paid for the food.  The remaining items were then placed on the belt and the cashier gathered them and placed them in a cart that seemed to be full from others' groceries who, at this point, I assumed lacked the money to pay for them.

I wanted to help.  I was certainly able to help.  I almost yelled "wait" as the cashier was walking off with their food, but I didn't.  I don't know why I didn't.  I was afraid.  I was unsure how the family would see my actions if I did help.  I rationalized that I was too late--by the time I figured out what was going on, I was too late to do anything.  This wasn't entirely true, but it was a reason I came up with to prevent myself from helping.

The other day, on my drive home, I saw a woman walking down the sidewalk carrying a few bags.  Instead of stopping to help her, I just invented reasons why I shouldn't.  It might be intimidating or creepy for a strange man to stop and offer her a ride.  She might not have far to go.  She might prefer to be independent.  She might want the exercise.  My car's messy.  I'm on a busy road and if I stop, the people behind me will be angry.

I've found that it's very easy to come up with reasons not to do something.  We humans are very good at inventing reasons.  We can use logic to inhibit ourselves from doing great things.  We can make excuses until we're blue in the face.  But we're also good at coming up with reasons to do something.  We can use this logic either way.  As the graphic suggests, we should use this ability to come up with reasons not to hurt people and to come up with reasons to help other people.

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