Posted in Words!

You build a society one life at a time.

Society is built on each individual life.

Each society is built on the worth accorded to every life.

Every life highly valued and supported in tangible and intangible ways builds the strength of the society.

Child and border officer
Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Every life devalued and judged unworthy of support robs the society of strength and merit and worth in itself.

‘Society’ is not equivalent to nation.

The borders of a society are set not by law nor by stone or metal walls, but by culture, by what is shared among people, by what is given value and ultimate value by individual and shared human lives.

If the life of a poor family is of less worth than that of a wealthy, then the society is not richer, but poorer.

If the life of a child on the way to birth is worth less than that of a child already born, then society’s understanding of what it is to be human is wounded.

If the life of a child on one side of a humanly-determined border is judged worthy of food and shelter, possibility and education and future, and the child on the other side is judged only as refugee or invader, then the society is on the run from the beliefs that make life together possible.

The society that judges against individual human lives judges itself.

The society that embraces each individual life as worthy of effort and cost and discussion, of time and money and inconvenience, of stopping to think through the law to the human depths beyond, is built up and becomes more truly itself, more truly human, more completely home for every human life.


A native of the North Shore of Boston, I currently live on Long Island, New York. I worked at Boston College as the Acting Director of The Church in the 21st Century Center until August, 2010 and served until November 2016 as Canon for Formation, and Dean of the George Mercer Jr. School of Theology of the Diocese of Long Island. I am now Rector at the Church of Saint Anselm of Canterbury in Shoreham, New York.

6 thoughts on “You build a society one life at a time.

  1. Thank you Steve. This is very much on my mind and heart, in terms of my own ‘real life’ response as well. And thank you, may I say, for your continuing shared insights. Thank you.

  2. This reminds me of the final evacuation the people from Vietnam Nam must have experienced. Many just handed their babies or young children to be airlifted here when they knew they wouldn’t make it on the transport. Never knowing if they would ever connect again.

    Parent’s historically have given their lives for their children. It’s simply called love.

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