By Y. Hope Osborn
A friend believes it is untrue to her own beliefs if she tries to see things from another person’s perspective—I disagree. Sometimes it is good to be neutral on a subject and not pick sides—not because you don’t feel a certain way, but because, sometimes, understanding a perspective different from your own helps shape your own beliefs. That is what I thought about when I started to write this blog about the Red Cross’s neutral stance on issues. But the Red Cross isn’t a stance to try to understand. That is the point. The Red Cross does not take sides. The Red Cross’s principle of neutrality states,
It makes no discrimination based upon nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
“…No discrimination … guided solely by their needs.” Many of us find this principle easy on the palate when it relates to those around us that we know and relate to. The Red Cross helps when our house burns down, when our town is swept away by a flood and when a hurricane devastates our family. We donate money, time, energy and blood to assist those people in other places in America affected by the same things.
We even donate those things for people in the path of destruction of a hurricane outside our borders, such as Haiti with Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Redcross.org says of the lifesaving aid provided to Haiti,
Americans’ generosity has made this critical work possible.
But sometimes it can be harder for us to see the Red Cross as a neutral organization that just cares about meeting the needs of people in distress, regardless of their “nationality, race, religious beliefs …” when it extends beyond our comfort level. It is harder to see that all people hurt and need at one time or another.
We live in a time when we are known by our distinctions, whether gay or straight, Christian or Muslim, black or white, etc. It is important that we distinguish ourselves as individuals. But it is also important we recognize that we are all the same in that we all have differences, making us one in society.
We need to ask ourselves, “Who are people behind our distinctions, and how are we related to one another by experience?” From that question, we may learn that we are all part of one large community that shares the experience of need and hurt.
In response to protests of the Red Cross, following a controversial executive order unfolding on the national political stage, the Red Cross stated in a press release dated February 7, 2017,
We respect the right of all people to express their views and are thankful to live in a country where such discourse is embraced and we are pleased these expressions did not hinder the efforts of an impartial humanitarian organization that serves the urgent needs of people at home and around the world.
The Red Cross respects our differences, and the Red Cross helped people at that time who needed and hurt just like you and I do. That same press release stated,
The American Red Cross, when requested by local authorities, will provide basic support to stranded travelers affected by the recent executive order on immigration, including providing food and water at ports of entry; blankets, toiletries and other aid; and health, mental health and spiritual care services.
Do you see how the Red Cross saw those people—“stranded travelers?” They did not refer to nationality or religion, because the Red Cross did not see a nationality or a religious belief. They saw people like you and me in need and hurting.
What is our common experience? We need and we hurt, and we sometimes need a helping hand from the Red Cross—from people like you and me.
For more information on how you can volunteer to be part of the Red Cross, go to redcross.org/volunteer.