This week I wondered for the first time if it might be easier living “off the grid.” Wouldn’t it be more comfortable not knowing about Middle East intrigue, teeming refugee camps, and capsized boats full of desperate immigrants? Wouldn’t it be easier to sleep at night if I never heard of neo-Nazi rallies in Germany, the politics of water in California, animals and birds driven to extinction, and the sliminess of the race to become president?
Life would certainly be much easier if I didn’t understand the dynamics between cops and black males, if I could just toss that news off as being about “those people.” What if I didn’t know that my husband has been stopped while driving for no reason and threatened with a stun gun if he didn’t stop questioning why he had been stopped?
What if I didn’t remember the night he was walking home from work dressed in a suit and carrying a brief case when a cop stopped him and asked, “Where do you belong?” After telling him politely that he had just finished fixing computers at his job (where he belonged) and now was walking home (where he also belonged), he continued on his way – followed by the cop.
What if I hadn’t been with him when we turned off the highway to visit an apartment complex in a small town and noticed that a cop did a U-turn so he could follow us into the town. He parked on the street while we stared at the apartments from the car, not daring to get out and look. What if I hadn’t seen him follow us out of town until we got back on the highway?
It would be easier to swallow the news if I hadn’t lived the experience. Empathy, once born, is hard to ignore and painful to feel. It would be easier to stay cozy and warm in my own house, concerned only about myself and my family. It would even be easier to be aware of all the issues of the world – and just not care about them. However, my Master lived his life in the midst of the politics and poverty and discrimination of his corner of the world. He purposely walked in and among the misery and did what he could to make life better. He suffered as he walked among the suffering. His empathy is seen on every page of the gospel. And he was killed for his efforts.
As an apprentice of Jesus, I cannot choose to close my curtains, and focus on me and mine. Jesus showed us that empathy and understanding come from learning about and being involved with those who are suffering. “Where were you,” he asks, “when the authorities beat me and murdered me?”
This week I wrote a letter to all of the Compassion International kids I support. They are all between 12 and 14 and are beginning to think about their futures.Because of Compassion they have a future. They live in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ecuador, the Philippines, and India in the midst of poverty and misery and suffering. I told them that God made them special, that there is no one exactly like each of them in the world. I told them that God has a plan for them. I told them to take care of their bodies, challenge their minds, and look for the plan God has for them.
This week that letter was all I could do to fight pain and anguish and discrimination everywhere. But it was something. Empathy, once born, is hard to ignore.