A jacket like this caused quite a stir recently because of who was wearing it and where it was being worn. I don’t intend to make a political statement in this article, but I think the message on the jacket raises an important moral dilemma.

Honestly, as a finite human being, I can’t care about everybody in the world. If I tried, I’d probably break something inside. And the more I spread my limited care supply to a broader circle of people, the more diluted it becomes, with the result that I may care a tiny bit about every human being, but not care deeply about anyone.

There have actually been sociological studies to determine how many people an average individual can have a meaningful (caring?) connection with. The consensus is that the “Dunbar Number” (after anthropologist Robin Dunbar) is about 150. Of course, when I accept this limitation as natural, my 150 personal connections are likely to be from the same geographical area, race and social class as my own, which creates many of society’s problems.

But I can’t settle this matter once and for all. It keeps confronting me day after day. I walk by a homeless person who’s looking for a dollar, and I turn my eyes away; I can’t afford to care for him at the expense of my family and close friends. I hear news reports about families suffering in the face of a hurricane in the Caribbean, and I feel for them — up to a point. I may make a donation to the Red Cross, but then I have to put those families out of my mind. I see TV images of people in a refugee camp in Jordan, but I can’t look for long at those emaciated faces, and I quickly turn to another channel. I find myself tempted to adopt the slogan on the jacket:


But when it comes to a Guatemalan child crying because she has been forcibly taken from her mother at the U.S. border, my jacket comes off. There’s no way I can not care. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because of the song I learned in Sunday School:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Here’s the thing: I may be limited in how wide my caring circle is, but I worship and serve a God whose capacity for caring is infinite, embracing every human person made in his image. So, if I’m going to be his follower, I’ve got to junk the jacket.

— Pastor George Van Alstine