Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help
Who would refuse to help a drowning stranger? Yet in a globalized world where starving children are always within reach (at least of our donations), that’s essentially what most of us do, reasoning that we can’t save everyone. MacFarquhar gravitates to the exceptions: the people who spare nothing to help others. After Hector and Sue Badeau adopt two children, social services ask them to take another; they end up with twenty-two. Baba Amte finds a leper dying at the roadside, and winds up founding a community for hundreds. For some of those profiled, doing good becomes compulsive; others burn out. MacFarquhar tells their stories sympathetically, probing why our society has given do-gooders such a bad rap. True, the danger of hubris is real: untethered from faith in God, attempts at world-saving ultimately lead to despair. Yet – as we learn from Francis of Assisi, Damien of Molokai, or Teresa of Calcutta – extremism in compassion is no vice. And so: what about us?