Nazi soldiers herded the Jews out of their barracks before dawn into thickly falling snow in order to wait for a train that would transport them to another camp. Having been without food and drink for three days, the Jews stood in the snow till the evening, forbidden to sit or even bend over. The snow formed a layer on their shoulders. One thirsty man took out his spoon and began to eat the snow that had accumulated on the shoulders of the person in front of him. The act spread through the line until that collection of separate individuals, each of who had been struggling alone with their pain, became a community sharing their suffering. (“Night”:-Wiesel, Ellie).
As a young boy growing up in the 50’s the word ‘compassion’ was not frequently used, however the behavior was a cornerstone of most communities. It was a time when the ‘church’ and its teachings were a lifestyle. Without data I cannot support my next statement, it is only an observation. Compassion as a deed is readily seen but is decreasing and taking a backseat to individualism. I am reminded of the infamous ‘frog in the water’ experiment where frogs are placed in water and the temperature is gradually increased only to see the frogs acclimate to the increased heat. Gradually the water reaches a boiling point and kills the frogs. Could this be happening to us? Are we adjusting to the changes in our society and culture only to suffer the fate of destruction?
Childhood memories of visiting families in time of sorrow, assisting a family with work around their house because someone was sick, or “I have come to ‘sit’ with you for a spell” have gradually decreased. These images have been burned in my brain and I know that as a society we must revisit those concepts. If we are to survive as a human family we must become a place of nourishment by quietly shouldering pain of others and their healing. “One thirsty man took out his spoon and began to eat the snow that had accumulated on the shoulder of the person in front of him. The act spread through the line until that collection of separate individuals……became a community.” Taking liberty with one of my favorite songs “let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” could easily be adopted into an action plan for each of us. The voice of reason cannot remain silent and must be spoken.
When we seek compassion we must remember that ultimately the heart cannot be forced. But it can become a womb where compassion is gestated and birthed. When this happens we bring forth God. There we birth the name WE and walk gently upon god’s bruised planet.