Local column: Brotherhood before self

Solutions to our state’s issues are challenging, but they are possible if each of us would just put brotherhood ahead of selfish interests, writes Lary Larson.

My wife and I have had children and grandchildren staying with us for the past few weeks. A few mornings ago, my daughter from Canada was planning to head home with her four children right after Louise and I had left for work.

As we said our goodbyes in the living room, nine-year-old Wyatt made a huge fuss about his twin brother, Clayton, still being asleep downstairs. “No,” he protested, “you can’t leave without giving my brother a hug! He’ll really feel bad if he doesn’t get a hug!”

So Louise, wonderful grandmother that she is, hurried downstairs to wake up Clayton and give him a hug. She found him in bed, shook him awake, and said, “I’m going to work. You have a good trip home and we’ll see you soon.” As he blinked the sleep from his eyes, the first thing he said was, “Did you hug my brother?”

Since Louise told me that story in the car as we drove away, I have found myself pondering that question over and over. Beyond how remarkable it is that two brothers would have such a special relationship that they literally feel each other’s anguish before they even think of their own, I am struck by the wisdom that Clayton so innocently encapsulated in five words—five words which, in any and all other contexts, express the ultimate standard of human brotherhood. It took St. Matthew, quoting Jesus, sixteen verses to say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Yet I find my grandson’s short but earnest appeal even more deeply humbling.

It haunts me; and worse, I find no comfort or excuse in knowing that it’s an indictment that we all share. Every year, we Idahoans gather in Boise, through our chosen representatives, and address the challenge of making life better for all our brothers and sisters.

But when all is said and done, well might one ask, “Did we hug our brother? What did we do to make life easier for the families who work as hard as anyone could reasonably expect them to do, sometimes at two or three or more jobs per family, but still can’t afford medical care for themselves or their children? What did we do for single parents who have to make the cruel choice of either being home for their children or working multiple jobs to put a roof over their heads and food on the table? What did we do for our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who have to endure the indignity of invidious discrimination in their workplace, or in other public interactions? What did we do to give future generations a better opportunity to thrive, or even just a better opportunity to have a life?”

There is so much more we could have done, so much more. The solutions are challenging, but they are possible if each of us would just put brotherhood ahead of selfish interests. The hugs we give our brothers and sisters cost us so little, but are worth so, so much to them.