We’ve all been accosted at one point or another by the volunteer donation-grabbers on street corners and in shopping centres. We’ve all been confronted by images of starving children abroad. There are layers and layers of guilt that ensure that we place a few measly coins in the bucket once in a while, but there are times when we just can’t.

“Why should I care?” Those starving children are a world away. I can’t really help them. My money is probably going to the pockets of those who work for a charity. There’s no way that I can make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

These are common things we tell ourselves. Sometimes all the noise pulling us this way and that gets to be too much for us and we’d rather shut ourselves off to it all. There is a lot that demands our attention today. Our society is one of high contact, high speed and high stress.

Given the choice between a starving child and a cute dog, it’s understandable that there are times that we would rather look at the latter. We’re all human, after all. No one can work in darkness forever.

That being said, there are plenty of us who just give up. We refuse to acknowledge the reality of the evil in our world and would rather focus on ourselves. It’s easier to keep our heads down, ignore the noise and make our way through life as comfortably as we can. I understand that, I really do.

But it’s extremely selfish. One of the most beautiful things that we can do as human beings is help one another. It’s also one of the most worthwhile actions. It’s easy to ignore the homeless person in the street. They don’t affect you. You tell yourself that you’ll never be homeless, that it’ll never be you on that street corner, that they probably deserve to be there for one addiction or another.

You ignore them because it’s easy. You’d rather focus on the good in your life and ignore the bad. It will make no difference to your life whether you stop to give them some change or not. It’ll make a difference to theirs, though.

Some of the greatest, most worthwhile things in life are worth a bit of sacrifice, and it doesn’t take much effort to make a real difference in the lives of the most underprivileged.

That being said, there’s a limit to how much the individual can do. We’ve all heard the phrases “I’m not perfect” or “I’m only human”. These don’t excuse our failings, but are accepting of them. We’ll always fall short in some way or another, and it’s worth accepting our own limitations.

We can’t help everyone ourselves, but there are times when we can point them towards help. You have your own life that you need to live, too. It can’t all be about another person.

The help you can give will only be as good as you are, much of the time. It can be hard to give mental and emotional support if you yourself are hurting badly. It’s not about being selfish, but about being-self-caring, which relates to having the self-esteem to understand your own value, and the self-respect to act on that.

There will always be people in need. It’s okay to say no sometimes, but always ask yourself why. Are you saying no because you need to protect yourself? Or is it because you simply can’t be bothered?