Monthly Archives: February 2015

A new compassion

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After reading Becca Leech’s touching story about Louis, I really wanted to be a part of the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. So I looked up the meaning and was not surprised that the dictionary definition of “compassion” included both “a feeling of sympathy” and “a desire to help those afflicted.” My mind was set on fire. Mother Teresa. AIDS in Africa – and around the world. Modern day slavery and child pornography. Oppression in North Korea and persecution around the world. Starvation.   Yowzers…

I am, by and large, a compassionate person. I’m authentically and painfully sympathetic to those whose lives are too awful to imagine. And I, along with many others, cannot understand why humans cannot – or will not – support, love, protect and care for each other. We want to alleviate all manner of despair, hopelessness and grief.

However, the definition says “a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” So, I really think that compassionate needs to have a little bit of a make-over. Or a booster shot. Because having a desire to create solutions doesn’t mean a ding-dang anything unless we take action. Simply put, my feelings of compassion for those in need matter only if they inspire me to get busy.

So, what does that look like? When I consider the list, I see situations that are mostly far away and so big that I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t even research them for fear that the reality of the awfulness leaves me frozen…unable to respond. I become increasingly overwhelmed not only by the magnitude of the problem, but also by the pitiful and harsh reality of man’s inhumanity to man.

And the truth is, on my own, I can’t really do much about AIDS or poverty or pornography, persecution or world-wide hunger. Nobody can.

Even if I could travel to places that scare the be-jeepers out of me, I feel small and incapable.

But, I can join others in the fight. I can contribute financially. I can contact my political representatives and raise my voice about how we as a state or nation should be spending our millions. I can be more aware of how I may unwittingly contribute to bad situations simply by how I shop. And it will make a difference.

But I can do so much more by doing little. I can show compassion to those around me. They may not be experiencing crippling poverty or the fear of an incurable disease. But almost everyone I know is living day to day with real problems that cause them real heartache. Yes, we live in pretty safe communities where these systemic, deadly catastrophes pose little threat.

But my friends and family, and people around me I just barely know, and people that know people I know are all at risk for heartbreak and loss. They experience rough times and disappointment on a daily basis. And for these people, I can make a difference. For their needs, of whatever size, can almost always be resolved by the compassion of those nearby. A bag of groceries, taxi service to the doctor’s office, free IT service, or assistance with a family move might be all it would take to make their lives immeasurably better.

And maybe it’s not convenient or my first choice for a Saturday morning. But it’s compassion that I can not only feel but also show. And, in the end, that’s the only kind that matters.

 

 

One or Others

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“It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands . . .

the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands” B.J. Hoff

Balance. Yet again, it eludes me.

But this time, the difficulty is not only establishing balance. It is also finding answers to seemingly simple questions. But answers that invoke controversy among even the most compatible Followers.

For some, it is simple – I serve an audience of One. It matters only what He sees in me. I don’t worry one bit about what others think, because His is the only opinion that matters. I am who He made me to be and, if there are those who don’t see that I’m just different from them – not wrong – well, I have to be true to myself.

But, for others, we are not only beloved children of the most high God – we see ourselves as His ambassadors. We are Jesus with skin on for those who aren’t quite sure about faith, religion, belief, mercy and grace. And, what others think of our actions does matter. Because what they learn about Him because of us matters.

* * * * * * *

I had, for several weeks, been pondering and considering and, frankly, agonizing over a dilemma. I had known her for over 8 years. Not long after we met, she invited me into a circle of her friends that proved to be both uplifting and fun. We shared a common faith. We had common interests. And, the affirmation that not only my faith but my personality were welcome – well, it was great.

But lately, it seemed like my friend and I were more than just drifting apart. Yes, the original group was breaking up for real-life reasons. Some members of the circle had moved away. And the environment in which we had met and spent time together had changed dramatically – and not for the better. But, even though the circumstances between just the two of us were pretty much the same, I sensed that something wasn’t quite right. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on it. But I became more and more convinced that our friendship had become so bruised or broken that it felt like even casual conversations were difficult. Strained. Uncomfortable. And, I avoided them.

I know, I know. Not everyone is going to like me. And, when I am at my best, when my hair turns out just fine and I like the outfit I’m wearing and I don’t feel like a complete idiot in front of my 5th graders, I’m really close to being OK with that. Really close.

But this felt different.

A friend with whom I share great trust has long known that I over-analyze almost everything and especially when it comes to interactions with others in any situation…

Did I hurt that check-out guy’s feelings when I smiled but didn’t say something like ‘have a good weekend,’ or ‘thank you ever so much for your help,’ or ‘you are, without a doubt, the most talented and gifted check-out person I’ve ever had the privilege to give my money to.’

Should I go back?

Next time I’ll be sure to do better. In fact, I’m sure I can think of a reason to return to the tire store in the next couple of days.”

Oh, for the love…

So, it came as no surprise to my confidante that I was anxious about this relationship. And she answered in the way she usually does. “If you believe you have done something, of course, go to her. But, honestly, Nancy, if your conscience is clear, and you continue to be kind, you know you are doing the right thing. And probably haven’t don’t the wrong thing.” And that was true.

But then she said, “And, besides, what difference does it make what she thinks of you?”

And that, my friends, is when my sense of balance got knocked sideways. Yes, there will be times when my behavior and ideas are not approved of or appreciated by the masses. In fact sometimes, being approved of or appreciated by everyone may mean that I am not living the life I truly want to live. Even people with whom I do share faith will not always think that I’m the bee’s knees. So be it and move on.

But, this felt different. We were not colleagues or acquaintances. We were friends. She had selected me as a friend. On purpose. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I had done wrong. She wasn’t being mean in any way. There were no snide remarks. She was not going out of her way to avoid me. So, maybe it was just a new day for her. Maybe she was making deliberate and thoughtful changes to a life that found her completely wrung out trying to “be” for others, just like me. Maybe she was making really hard choices and just figuring things out.

I tried to be regular around her. You know, including her in meeting conversations without being obvious. Making sure unavoidable eye contact was kind and welcoming. But it seemed bland and flat and a little fake on my part.

So. Do I quietly walk away because it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks? Or do I follow my heart and believe that it does matter what she thinks? Cliché or not – “WWJD?”

It took many days, many mental drafts, many prayers, many mental redrafts. But, finally, I did it. On pretty paper, with a matching envelope. A few simple sentences. No accusations. No “You.” An authentic apology. A request for forgiveness. A prayer for healing.

And the very next day, she made a “bee-line” (as my dad would say) right over to me. Our conversation revealed that the busy-ness and anxiety of things in her life kept her feeling distant and disconnected from even her closest friends. We spoke openly about our misunderstandings. And then, she said, “I’m so glad you brought it up. Absolutely nothing is wrong.”

And I knew right then that, for once, I got it right. I weighed the situation. I searched my soul for insight into what I needed to own in our friendship. And I didn’t give up. I didn’t retreat to “It doesn’t matter.” And I found the sweet spot.

I know that I serve an Audience of One. At the same time, I have been commissioned to let my “…light shine before men in such a way that they may see [my] good works, and glorify [my] Father.” (Matthew 5:16).

It’s a delicate balance. And, when I get it right? Wow.