Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once told about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child, and the winner was a four-year-old boy. His next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had lost his wife recently. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into his gentleman’s yard, climbed into his lap and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing. I just helped him cry.”
Can you imagine what this world would be like if we each had compassion like that? What would it be like if we all slowed down enough to truly care about our neighbors? I often think how sad it is that we have turned the greeting “How are you?” into a common and meaningless form of superficial connection. We all respond, “I’m fine; How about you?” as if by rote. I wonder if we would know what to say if someone said “I’m not good today.” A response from the heart. A response that was true and honest and real. Would you run, or would you sit by them, hold their hand, and help them cry?
Expressions of compassion are not passive. You must consciously choose to act in an unselfish and nurturing way, which often requires a great deal of sacrifice. That four-year-old boy could not help his elderly neighbor by sitting on his couch playing video games. He had to be outside so that he would see the tears of the old man and act in response to his pain.
Jesus did not stay in his house or even his community. He had to be outside in the world to see and act in response its pain. The Gospel writers note many times that Jesus was filled with compassion for the people and healed their sick. Compassion was the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry, and, certainly, it should be the cornerstone of ours.
An anonymous writer once wrote that, “Kindness is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” Indeed, kindness can unite and build us all. It crosses the barriers of language and culture and touches each of us at the core of our being; it touches each of us in that place of intimate and private vulnerability that only God could create.
Practicing compassion has the power to change someone’s life, particularly yours.