Here is one answer, from playwright, author, actor Alice Childress: “Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.”
And here is another, from the poem, On Another’s Sorrow, by 18th century poet and visionary William Blake:
Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.
Can I see a falling tear
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill’d.
Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.
Blake’s poem goes on to speak of God’s sorrow, of Jesus’s sorrow, who also cannot bear the sufferings of their beloved creatures, No, no, never can it be.
But not everyone subscribes to this point of view. Far from it. I therefore dedicate this post to those members of Congress whose response to their fellow humans is to vote to defund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the hungry, whose response to the sufferings and illnesses of others is to fight any attempt to help and heal, whose response to not having their way is to vote to close down the government and throw thousands upon thousands of their neighbors out of work. Neither mothers nor fathers they, not by Blake’s lights. No, they are rather dogs in the manger, snarling, snapping, biting; hard-hearted like Pharoah of the Bible, with no more signs of softening than he. If such cannot, as Childress advises, be kind to others, at least let them be cautious. In the end, Pharoah in all his pride and power was brought down by plagues. Do you really think it can’t happen to you?
(I owe an apology to those actual four-footed creatures whose lives and loyalty give such mean-spirited human creatures lessons in compassion and fellow feeling.)