Posted by: Mark | July 27, 2011

Thankfullness, confusion, empathy

As I sat in my car after returning from the dentist I seen the lady hobbling towards me at the traffic lights. She was dressed in rags shaped as clothes and walked with what looked like a painful limp. As she approached I reached into the coin box (ash tray) in the car and fished out 5PHP (around 3p). When she arrived at the window I lowered it just enough to slip the solitary coin into her plastic cup. She thanked me and walked on with that distinctive limp. As she walked away a reflective mood dropped over me and I began to think about the way I viewed this lady. Did I see her as a beggar, a poor person, someone to pity or as a person just like me? Did I realise she was a human created in God’s image? And not only intellectually or philosophically but in reality through my actions how did I look at her?

I had just given her a coin that, combined with the others that she would glean from her struggling walk to other cars that day, would pay for the food she would need to just survive. Not survive and buy a little extra or replace the clothes she was wearing. Not survive by paying the rent, electricity bill, gas bill, water bill and school fees. No just actually stay alive survive. She would collect money and then most likely spend it all in the same day, then in the morning start all over again with the repetitive hobble.

How am I supposed to react to this reality? What am I supposed to do? Would it really help if I had given her more than a single coin? What would God want me to do?

As I sit here now typing on my nice computer to post this on an Internet that lady will probably never know about I am filled with a peculiar mix of thankfulness, confusion and something that I think is compassion as a result of empathy.

I am thankful in a renewed and palpable way for what God has given me, both good and bad. When Louise and I spend all the money we receive in a month we can dip into our savings to pay for food, electricity and water. We have what we need and extra. Compared to this lady we are ostentatiously wealthy. Thank you God for blessing us.

I am confused as it is not clear at all why it is this way. Why am I not the person eking out a survival living by begging at traffic lights? Why am I not impecunious? Why was I blessed with an education, opportunity and wealth? Why?

I am a logical person. Emotion is not a frequent reality in my life. But as I attempt to empathise with this lady, to understand and share her feelings, sympathy, concern and solicitude brew inside of me. I feel compassion for this lady. This is not a new feeling but it is somewhat more challenging for an inexplicable reason.

Poverty is painful and humanly unfair but it is a reality. How can God be glorified through me in the eyes of these wonderful creations of His? Right now I don’t know but I know that God is a God with a plan and a purpose for my life. May I be malleable enough to bend to His plan and away from mine.

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