Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On Compassion

I've come to the conclusion that this compassion business is tricky.

You see, I give lip-service to being kindhearted, yet I avoid eye contact with most panhandlers in my path. I walk right on by the elderly Haitian man sitting on the side of the road, hoping he doesn't notice the water bottle in my hip pocket. And to the kid who asks me for my shoes I answer, "No, m' pa kapab," knowing full well that's a lie, that I've got another pair in the house.

Why don't I do what Jesus so clearly commands me to do? Isn't there wisdom to the notion of not fostering a sense dependency or entitlement in those we would help? And what about the societal evils that put the guy there? Shouldn't we, instead, concentrate our efforts on addressing the larger issues of poverty? I am torn. On one hand my heart breaks for the tent people, soggy from the rain. On the other, what long term solution is there in just handing them a tarp? On one hand, I feel for the dirt-poor family that can nowhere near afford the $180 per year to send their child to school. On the other hand, so I help a kid go to school... what happens next year, and the next?

Yet I feel com-passion... I "suffer with" these people. I have rather absorbed their pain. And I say to myself, if I were the one sitting along side the dusty road, and I hadn't eaten in several days, and I saw a guy with a water bottle in his back pocket, I'd beg too. "M' vle dlo," I'd say. "I want water." In that moment, you don't fret about who or what is the blame for your thirst.

So you just give the guy some water. And you sneak him some of your food hoping no one's watching. Because at the end of the day, he's not thinking about the societal evils that put him in his vulnerable position. He just wants a drink of water. He just wants some beans and rice.

I think Princess Diana said it well : "You can't comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable." (OK, OK you theologians, so it's not C.S. Lewis). Well, I am "afflicted" and conflicted. I wrestle with what's right and what's not. Maybe one day I'll figure it out, but I doubt it. In the meantime, I'll keep sharing my food and handing out tarps and making my mistakes along the way. After all, one learns to swim by diving in, not by reading a book about swimming. I'll start with the dog-paddle and progress to freestyle and I'm sure I'll suck water through my nose into my cranium plenty of times. I may be a slow learner, but I will learn to swim.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know those same struggles of wanting to help, but wanting to know how to do it the "right way". Well,it's really whatever God tells you to do, because He knows the needs. Thanks for listening to Him and bringing hope to a small part of Haiti.