“Can you believe the trash people dump here? And that aquarium, glass broken into a million pieces? Do you remember when ____ was Mayor? Back then, trash was the last thing you would ever think of dropping on the curb! What’s happened to people these days?”
She didn’t slow down but simply talked as she continued on her morning exercise route. I gave a quick slight nod.
But her words dug deep.
I couldn’t count the number of times my husband and I walked past the same spot and we had similar thoughts—most of the time we expressed them out loud to one another. We couldn’t believe no one had cleaned up this spot in our community! Finally two days ago, when we saw a police car nearby, we asked if anything could be done. The police woman said, “Call this number.” After several attempts—getting automated messages and no call back—we realized that was likely a dead-end street.
And then came Sunday.
We listened to a powerful message on compassion, given by Bill Russell (Executive Director of Portland’s Union Gospel Mission). He gave an expansive view of compassion. His closing remarks were something like, What does compassion look like in your life? Your community? It doesn’t need to look like it does at LifeChange (at UGM), although that’s one view. What is your gifting? Where do you live? What does it look like right where you are each day? What do you see?
I admit, the trash in our neighborhood’s dead-end street that we pass each time we walk to the Springwater Trail is not the first thing that came to mind on that Sunday morning. However, when Bill made such a clear point about “seeing” who and what is around us every day…referring to the priest, and Levite in Luke 10, who “saw” but passed by on the other side…I soon realized I had too had passed by on the other side. I had not “interrupted” my regular walking routine for the sake of my community—the people who live near me.
Although this (trash in the neighborhood) may seem like a small thing to you, I assure you it was a case of “seeing” that was strategic for me.
Each passage that Bill gave us included a “seeing” that led to compassion.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).
But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion… (Luke 10:33).
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34).
It was a powerful point—that perhaps our first step is to ask God to open our eyes as we live out each day.
Yes, even in the routine of life. Do we really see what is all around us? I admit I don’t always. Sometimes I am so focused on my agenda that I miss what is happening around me. After all there are deadlines and responsibilities….
Yes, I saw the trash and thought somebody ought to do something about this! Someone should clean it up. Ugh…it’s hard to admit this—and yet, I suspect I’m not the first one to think such thoughts and pass by on the other side. Small comfort.
When the woman walking past me this morning spoke those words, it was a mirror of me—and I saw how much like the Levite and the Priest I had been.
The only difference was that this time I was actually doing something about it. My husband (he graciously agreed) and I were cleaning it up when she walked by.
The woman didn’t stop; she simply gave her opinion as she walked by. I’m not sure who she thought we were or why we were cleaning it up, but her words simply implied, “It’s about time someone (you!) do something about this!”
Granted, this incident was not moving toward a person per se with compassion—it was merely picking up a lot of trash. But it was a memorable moment for me. People live here—my neighbors.
How many times do I walk past a person in need and not really see her or him…not see them with the eyes of the father of the “lost son,” or the “good Samaritan” or the eyes of Jesus?
Lord, give me eyes to see…
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.