Compassion

So as i was coming back up from Chinatown (where my home church is) today, and i took the same route to get on to the highway that I usually do.  And as usual, there were people (men) walking along the on ramp selling socks, tshirts, water, etc.  I think in years past my first instinct has been to lock the doors.  I’ve definitely learned that from my parents growing up, and I think it stems from urban legend kind of stories about how they might yank open your door and climb in as your trying to get onto the highway, or reach through your window to steal your purse, or who knows what.  I’m sure if we all let our imaginations free to wander we could come up with terrible things.  And if I really think about it, locking the doors would make sense, logically, from the world’s point of view.  I drove down to church alone today because Dad’s on a business trip, so here I am, as this asian girl alone in her car about to drive back up to the suburbs. 

today i didn’t lock my doors.  In fact, I felt the idea flit through my head out of habit, but not out of fear like it has been in years past.  And I ignored it.  And as I sat at the red light, the first one in the line of cars, there was a man holding up a piece of cardboard that said that he was homeless.  And that he hadn’t eaten in two days.  And he was asking for help.  And I scanned my car for any kind of food that I could give him, but seeing none, I merely gave him a sympathetic face, and then hoped that he couldnt’ see my eyes follow him through my Carson Pirie Scott sunglasses as I watched him walk past my door.  And after about 30 seconds, I couldnt’ take it.  the guilt and the sorrow was overwhelming me, but as I reached for my purse, the light turned green, and I had to go.

As a member of my church, we’re not allowed to give money to people who are in need and are asking for it.  Simply because you could be an enabler in that way, but you’re encouraged to spend time, to give them food and sit and eat with them in a restaurant.  Occassionally, especially in Evanston (the City of Churches that has many a homeless person on its sidewalks), I use this as an excuse to not give homeless people money.  And I think I was really convicted of that during our Church Outreach (Where is the Love in the Church) during EngageNU, Intervarsity’s week long yearly outreach.  I’d reason it out to myself as I walked by a homeless person, telling myself that “No, of course I can’t break the covenant to my home church!”, and I’d feel guilty as I walked by, look them in the eye, apologize, and after about 10 feet, I’d let out a sigh mixed with sorrow and relief.  (yes, relief.)

But as I started speeding up to merge onto the highway, I started praying for him.  i asked God to protect him, to send people who have that heart to help him, to talk to him, to share with him if he’s not Christian, to give him hope, and I asked God to reveal himself to that man, to show that man that he’s cared for, despite what the world looks like to him…and while I was praying I just started crying.  Tears collected in my sunglasses as I drove, and my heart began to break for him.

I think I finally get it–the compassion–that circumstance changing compassion that James Chambers talked about.  It could possibly be PMS, but I certainly hope not.  After James talked that one night at Cedar, he had us break into groups of 2 or 3, and I prayed with Alex and Amy Jia.  And I just felt so moved by the Spirit that I began to cry as I asked God for that compassion.  Compassion is one of my spiritual gifts, but for most of my life up until now, it’s been mostly reserved for friends, for family, or for hallmates, classmates, people at Northwestern and friends from home–people I knew.  And it’s easy to have compassion for them–they’re my friends.  They’re people I see as I walk down the street, even if I don’t know them.  They’re the people whose names I look up as I sit in my little exit desk circle.

But true compassion–i don’t need to know them.  All I need to know is that God made them.  And God loves them.  And that’s enough.  I should love these people–feel compassion towards them, because God loves them, and HE knows them. 

And I think God is answering my prayer.  He’s growing and changing my heart, and opening my eyes.  I couldn’t explain why I was moved to tears over that man…and over the man that I drove by on my way to Lincolnwood mall.  I’ve driven by that on ramp countless times a year…and not once did I feel that depth of sorrow and pain…and not for myself, but for a man I didn’t know.  I couldn’t tell you what his name was, how old he was, where he came from, if he had any family, what he likes to do, how he became homeless, or even exactly what he was wearing (i think it was a button up short sleeve and pants…but what kind or color i have no idea…)…but I didn’t need to know that for God to break my heart for him. 

And during dinner, I was watching “The Survival Project” on CNN, where they talked about all the humanitarian efforts that are going on around the world, particularly in Africa with the AIDS crisis, and in Ethiopia with the food shortage….and just as I was convicted when Tim King came to talk about Justice in LG, I was convicted again to really start tithing to an organization like Unicef or World Vision.  And I thought about sponsoring a child, even going so far as to look through all the children, but then I realized that it would likely be an 8-15 year commitment, depending on how old the child is.  And not knowing what my future is like, whether I’ll even have a job next year (i’ve been considering volunteering for a year abroad…maybe through Green Corps, or maybe even through World Vision)…I don’t want to have to cancel my sponsorship…is that wrong of me?  maybe I should sponsor them, even if it is only for a year…i really don’t know.

So instead, I think I’m just going to tithe to World Vision for various things every month.  And I thought of committing to donate monthly, where they just charge your credit card, because then I know that I would be donating each month…but I want this to be an intentional thing for me….even though I am worried that I may not follow through.  But if God is truly working in me right now to bring about a heart for Justice in me, then I don’t think I have anything to worry about. 🙂

so for accountability’s sake…I tried to find the most pressing need…and so I donated through World Vision to the Earthquake relief in  the Szechuan province of China.  It’s at the top of their homepage and it said The need is urgent!  Donate with me?

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