Wednesday, May 28, 2008

losing our compassion

I've been challenged about how compassionate I am towards people in need a couple of times recently. I work for a ministry that seeks to reach out to these people and I think that can sometime assist me in forgetting about the real needs of people. I may not be interacting with them everyday, but I see it everyday as I arrive at work and again as I leave. When something is in your face that much it can get to be something that you begin not to notice.

This is what has been happening to me lately. It has become so normal for me to see someone sitting on the side of the street with all of their earthly belongings or lining up outside my place of employment with it all, that I don't think I really see the people anymore. It's normal to me and so I hardly notice it.

But it hasn't always been that way. When I first started this job it tore at my heart everyday as I drove past them in my nice (albeit older) car, coming from or going to my home, where I had a fridge and cupboards full of food. It just didn't seem fair that I had all of that and these people didn't. But, over time, seeing it became as normal to me as breathing. I quit even really noticing that these people were there.

By failing to notice these people anymore, I as losing one of my main reasons why I was drawn to this job in the first place. I'm not on the front-lines with these people, but when I started my job I was excited about it because I was still a part of something that was seeking to make a difference in people's lives. My job was starting to become just that . . . a job . . . and nothing more.

But through a couple of situations recently God has been helping me to begin to see these people as people again. One way was through seeing someone that I grew up with as one of these people. Sometimes you grow up with people and they drive you crazy all the time . . . that was this person growing up. But, it was still a lot easier to remember that these people in need are really truely people when it's someone you know that you see in that position. You never expect to see someone you grew up with on the streets, in need, and going down a dangerous path. That was one of the hardest things to see that I've ever seen in my life . . . and it was an incredible reminder that these people that I see around work everyday are people.

The second reminder came when I was sitting in a park with my friends last night. Just a little ways away there was a guy playing his guitar and singing, hoping people would leave him money. It was pretty obvious that he was either on drugs or had been drinking heavily. My first response was just to write him off as a drug-addict or a drunk, and I said something along those lines to the friends I was with (if you guys are reading this blog, you'll know who you are and I want to apologize to you for that). Almost as soon as I finished saying it I regretted it. As I heard those words come out of my mouth it struck me that, while he may be either one of those or both, that doesn't make him any less human. This guy was still a person and deserved to be seen as such. Thankfully not everyone at the park last night saw him the way I did at first. There were people who did see him as a person and had a conversation with him.

Neither of those experiences were incredibly pleasant, but for me they served as reminders of why I do the job that I do. God knew I needed reminding and He did what it took to do that. And I honestly hope that they are things I never again forget. I don't want to find myself back in this situation again.

Every human deserves to be seen as human and treated as such. It doesn't matter where in society they fall - whether they are the wealthy, the middle-class, the working poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless. All our people and worthy of being treated as though they are people.

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