The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Elie Wiesel in U.S. News and World Report 27 October 1986
We have a compassion problem. It comes in many forms.
The first is when we say “that isn’t really a problem” to people who say “I have a problem.” We have been doing it about race, gender, poverty, and physical and mental ability for a very long time. Forever even. Far to often I have heard very well-meaning people say “it is not that bad” or “I did it, why can’t you?” or “but what if they are lying.” I don’t ever remember Jesus being stopped by a blind man and saying “I don’t know. Someone down the road might need me more and you would take up too much of my time. Besides, you seem like you are doing OK.” If someone says they have a problem, IT IS A PROBLEM. It might not be a problem you have ever even thought about. It might not be something you understand. It might, in fact, be their own fault. It is still a problem and the Bible teaches us that love and grace is how we respond to any problem.
The second is like unto it. The fear that somehow we will be doing the wrong thing if we help. We have been warned so many times about being tricked. Don’t stop. Don’t help. Don’t trust. Yet, when we are compassionate we are not the ones held responsible for the outcome. We are only judged based on what we can reasonably know. Far better that we help 99 fakes than ignore 1 legitimate need, especially when in reality the numbers are usual the reverse of that.
The third is where I feel my self lately. My compassion circuits are burned out. I have this innate feeling that the world needs saving and I should be doing something about it. I have a deep desire to fix things. I firmly believe that every human being should have equal and reasonable clean water and food, shelter, clothing, education, and healthcare. When I see people who do not, and there are so many who do not, I want that to change. I can get overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed I can get a burned out. It is not that I no longer feel compassion, it is that it is all jumbled up, diffuse and confused and ineffectual.
So, here it is Lent and I have been asking people to add rather than give up. This ask is a bit both.
Give up indifference.
Take up a cause. No, you can’t save the world. No you can’t do everything. But you can do that one thing. You cannot rescue all the puppies in the pound, but you can take home one. Metaphorically I mean, unless of course that is what God is calling you to do. I don’t know what that might be.
A cause, there are many like it, but this one is yours.
Take it up.