Alice is in town one day and sees a homeless man asking for food on Main Street. “What a pity!” she thinks. “I should do more to feed the hungry.”
The next day at the market she shops for her family’s groceries but she also shops for the local food bank. On her way out she walks by the same man asking for food and hopes he will make his way down to the food bank.
The next week she does the same. She goes shopping and again shops for her local food bank. She has a sincere desire to end hunger in her community. Again on her way out she walks by the man and she thinks of approaching him. But is she imagining things or is he looking at her with anger in his eyes? And goodness didn’t someone get mugged on this street just a few weeks ago? Best to play it safe, so she continues to the food bank to deliver the food.
Another week passes and Alice goes shopping again. Her two children are with her because she wants them actively involved in her efforts to help ease hunger. She has them select the food for the food pantry, 15 items each. On the way out they again walk past the same man. “Should we approach him?” asks her daughter. Alice thinks about it, but her children are with her. Her first duty is to them and she could never forgive herself if he did anything to hurt them. So they walk by and deliver the food at the food pantry.
Later that evening over dinner Alice and her husband are discussing the man. They decide that the next day they will go and ask him if he would like anything to eat. But by this time it is too late and the man has died of hunger.
Is Alice a hypocrite? She said she wanted to feed the hungry and didn’t she help do just that? Isn’t she right that her first duty is to her children? Isn’t it her right to protect herself against a perceived threat, even if it is imagined? Alice is not responsible for the man’s circumstance and truly did nothing wrong. Why didn’t he just go to the food pantry? Imagine the difference she could have made in his life if she had just escaped her comfort zone for just a few minutes. If we can’t help everyone, shouldn’t we prioritize those who are literally or figuratively starving?
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”