Disability Appeals in North Carolina  -   33 Years Experience
David R. Paletta
Disability Attorney

Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Boone
North Carolina

(919) 491-5643

Is there a duty to help those who are suffering? A personal point of view.

Published by David Paletta

If I am not for myself, who is for me?

When I am for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?

—Hillel  ~ 50 B.C.E.

Since the age of 17 when I became aware of suffering, I have felt a pull from within to act, to do something to lessen suffering. But why? I have not stolen from anyone. I have not knowingly discriminated against minorities. I have always tried to help rather than to hurt. So where does this "pull" come from?

Assuming for the point of this discussion that I have not been the cause of suffering, do I nonetheless have a Duty to help those who are suffering? I have reflected on this question for 40 years. Three experiences helped me find an answer.

First, being a parent taught me many lessons about life. I have two sons, now 28 and 30 years old. Being their father has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding about what "Love" means.

As a father, I have tried to do what is best to promote my sons' well-being. At times, this has meant sacrificing my needs to meet their needs. Further, this desire to do what is necessary to help my sons has been unconditional. I do not put strings on my help. There is no quid pro quo.

I believe my attitude as a parent is shared by the vast majority of parents on this planet, regardless of nationality. We are human beings. As human beings, we will do anything to protect and to help our children. The reason is simple. This is what Love for our children compels us to do.

Second, some years ago I watched "Band of Brothers". At the beginning of each episode, WWII veterans wept as they told stories of buddies killed in combat. It was very moving to watch the depth, the genuineness, of their emotion.  

I believe the reason these brave veterans could not hold back their tears more than 50 years after the end of the war, was Love. As human beings, we have the capacity to love not just our children, but other human beings outside our immediate family. The tears of these veterans spoke louder than their words. These veterans loved their fallen comrades. Indeed, these men were a "Band of Brothers".

Third, I had a powerful emotional reaction to the events of 9/11. I did not know anyone who was killed in the attack. I live in North Carolina, far away from New York. But the sorrow I felt was profound, as if a member of my family had been killed.  

The people who died on 9/11 were of different ages, different religions, different political parties.  The differences made no difference. We are all Americans, and we all grieved because we had lost some of our family. I believe at the core of the deep sorrow I and millions of other Americans experienced on 9/11, was Love.

From these three experiences, and others, I have come to believe that the experience of Love is what makes life worth living. The experience of Love with my children, my partner, my friends, and many others, gives my life meaning.  

So for me, this pull to help others comes from Love.  However, for Love to be real, it must be acted upon. Therefore, I believe I have a Duty to help those who are suffering, even when I have no responsibility for the suffering. This Duty is necessary in order to make Love a reality in my life.

I came to this belief out of my life experience, not from anything I read or heard. Nonetheless, I find it affirming to read the words of a wise man who wrote two thousand years ago:

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

                                                                                                  1 Corinthians 13:1-13