Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Compassion Without Condition

This past week's men's group meeting was a real good one. Not that the other meetings aren't, some meetings are just better because the topic that week may inspire more discussion and that everyone has something to contribute. This past week's topic was ministering to people. One of the questions was "What are some of the reasons that people would let an opportunity to minister to someone pass?" Before anyone can answer that question we really need to ask, "Why do people perform acts of compassion?" What is it that makes a person decide, "I have to do this act of compassion?” “Why do we minister to other people's anguish?" Is it to see the results of our deeds? To see what effect our act of compassion have on the person or persons? Here’s a good one, for the “gratitude or thanks” we get from our deeds? I especially like that last one. What is an act of compassion? An act of compassion should be about easing a person's pain. Physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain, really any form of anguish. Anguish in all its forms may range from hunger to discomfort; loneliness is a form of anguish. I would like to think that, in at least one point of a person's life, there came a time when they decided to perform an act of compassion. But once that decision has been made and acted upon, what happened that the opportunities to act or to minister to others became harder, or rather easier to let pass? Once again... What are some of the reasons people would let an opportunity to minister to someone pass? Talk about a loaded question. The "people" was quickly replaced with "you" or "I". There was no shortage of "what’s". But a lot of time was spent on the following reasons with the common theme of "They are just ripping me off" or "I'm tired of getting burned". I am guessing it is a sentiment that is shared by a lot of people. They don't see what good any of their efforts are doing or can do. There are a lot of problems in this world and it is overwhelming. There are so many people trying to do the right thing or for that matter trying to do anything and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the entire world’s pain. For many, burning out is a concern, others become cynical and the most tragic of all, loss of hope. But it doesn’t have to be that way. An act of compassion, the decision to minister is all about easing a pain, administering to a person’s anguish; do you really want to see the result?
Scenario 1: Jack saw a homeless person at a street corner digging through a trash can looking for something to eat. It is obvious to Jack that the man is hungry, seeing that there is a hotdog stand nearby Jack tells the man that he will buy him a meal. The man thanks Jack for his compassion and Jack continues on his way, not looking back.
Result: After eating the man robbed a market not too far from the corner and injured a few people in the market while running away.
Scenario 2: Alan was walking home from the corner market. As he passed the park he saw an elderly lady sitting on a bench staring out at the lake. She seemed distressed, so he asked her if she was alright. A conversation started and as they spoke her face became more animated. After a while he took his leave and went home.
Result: The lady was feeling a little sad about outliving all her friends. She saw that while talking to Alan, it is still possible to make new friends. She is killed on the way to volunteer for a community outreach program.
Scenario 3: Susan was at a gas station, when a man asked her for any change so he can get bus fare to get home. She was very skeptical, but she felt he genuinely needed the money so she gave him her change. After filling up her car, she then drove away.
Result: The man did need the money to get home, but the bus he was on got into an accident. Many people were hurt, but the man having had intensive first aid training was able to save a number of lives.
Did Susan’s act of compassion, her ministering to that man have more weight than Jack’s or Alan’s acts of compassion? Do outcomes invalidate the decision to act?
We are called to act, we are called to help, and we are called to minister to those around us. We are called to do.

Well, since this was an especially long blog, I will continue the Retreat Stories another time. For the guys in my Men's Group, if I totally misrepresented our discussion... you know where to find me or by all means leave me a scathing comment.


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