Practicing Compassion


The elderly woman looked at me with a big grin.  “I no English,” she said.  She appeared Chinese, but I had no way of knowing.

“Okay,” I said.  “I’m Joanna.”  I pointed at myself.

She just grinned and nodded.  I inwardly readied myself for a challenge.  This wasn’t going to be easy.

We were standing in my local food pantry last night.  She was a patron and I was about to help her shop.  The only problem was it was a choice pantry.  Meaning that while I could point her in the right direction, she had to make the choices and I had to communicate how many choices she could make in each area.

As we walked around the pantry, moving from area to area, I thought about the issue of communication.  So much has happened in the past week.  So many people in our country clearly weren’t talking before the election because it was such a surprise.  So many people aren’t communicating now.  There’s just anger and fear.

Here, though, communication was more basic.  Beans, one.  Meat, two.  Canned vegetables, four.  I pointed and held up fingers.  At the end, she gave me another big grin and left with bags full of food.

How simple was that communication.  She had a need.  I met the need.  We were both happy.  I wish it were always that easy.

The issues that we face are complex, but they are not unsolvable.  So much of the fear in my country seems focused on immigrants.  Weren’t we all immigrants at one time, I want to ask.  Aren’t we as Christians all strangers to this world?  But the fear continues.

I have felt within myself a huge call to in some way confront that fear, but I’ve struggled to know how. I wanted to say to the woman in front of me, I welcome you.  I accept you.  I acknowledge that wherever you’re from, we’re both human.  But I didn’t have the gestures to say that in a language she would understand.  For me, this act of service would instead be the communication.

As much anger and fear is felt, then that much more compassion do I want to practice.  Jesus has taught us to respond to attacks and mockery with love.  So today, tomorrow, and hopefully for the coming years, I want to be the embodiment of that love, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in service to my fellow man.

How are you practicing compassion to your fellow man?


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