My wife is not a fan of Wal-Mart. In fact, she has said on multiple occasions that she has an extreme dislike for the store. I, on the other hand, don’t really have strong opinions either way. I feel that Wal-Mart provides various items at a lower price than other places and when you shop on a budget, that comes in handy. So, from time to time we shop there. My wife does so begrudgingly.
One sunny day we took a trip to Wal-Mart to do our weekly shopping. We ran the Gauntlet (this is what we call going up and down the aisles), checked out, loaded the car and were headed out of the parking lot. It was there that we saw them. A husband, a wife, a small child and an infant (in a stroller) standing next to the stop sign. The dad was holding a sign asking for assistance.
My wife and I live very modestly. We don’t have a lot of extra money. When we encounter situations like these, I will admit to facing a battle in my mind on whether or not to give. Plus, on that day, we were working under a time limit. We had places to go and things to do. And yet, here we are faced with a conundrum. Do we help them or do we ignore them?
For my wife, the answer was obvious, we need to help them. Once she saw the little girl and the baby in the stroller, her heart melted. For me, I would be lying, if I did not admit to having several thoughts run through my mind about how we could use the extra money we have and how we don’t have time to stop.
I struggled with my feelings. I had an internal battle between feeling pity and compassion. I felt pity because I felt sorrow for this family’s suffering. But, pity did not compel me to action. In fact, pity was leading me to distance myself from the situation, to turn my head and look the other way.
Compassion, however, was causing me to suffer with this family. It was causing me to put myself in this father’s shoes as he was begging for strangers to help his family. Compassion caused me to feel the pain and the humiliation that he must be feeling. It was compassion that caused me to act. I was able to empathize with him and his family and I felt compelled to help.
We turned the car around, pulled up next to the family, handed them some money and drove away. I can still see the little girl’s face as we were driving off. You would have thought we had given them something of priceless value instead of a slip of paper with the picture of a dead President on it. We felt good.
Both Matthew 14 and Matthew 20 tell stories of how Jesus was moved by compassion. In these chapters, Jesus was approached by a large crowd and the blind. He did not let pity fill His heart and cause Him to turn away and ignore those around Him. Instead, His heart was filled with compassion which caused Him to heal the sick and give sight to the blind.
Jesus was the ultimate difference maker in this world and if you are a follower of His, you too are called to be a difference maker. So the next time you encounter a situation where you are struggling with pity and compassion, I encourage you to remember the actions of Jesus and move with compassion. We are to follow His example of making a difference in the lives of those around us who are hurting and lost.
What situations have you been a difference maker and showed compassion to those around you?