Our Common Humanity
In the song Everybody Hurts by R.E.M., we are reminded of the fragile nature of the human experience. Michael Stipe’s plaintive vocals turns some lyrics into a plea for compassion and understanding: “When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone…when you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on. Don't let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.”
Everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.It is obvious that there is much more than a grain of truth encapsulated in that nutshell. No one escapes the multitude sorrows of this world. Quite often tears and pain manufacture the gritty adhesive that binds us together.
Given that, it is difficult to comprehend the ease at which we slip into a callous and hardhearted mode. It seems that we all have the capacity to become deaf, dumb and blind to the incessant desperation of human misery. What is really mind boggling is to witness adults teach their children to ignore or poke fun at those who are different or less fortunate. Do those bigoted jokers honestly believe that they will never fall prey to the random vicissitudes of our common humanity?
A Foreshadowing Illustration
Jesus of Nazareth painted a portrait of the meaning of compassion that is so raw that it reaches up inside to lacerate our conscience. In his foreshadowing illustration, history as we perceive it has passed into eternity. All the nations are gathered before Christ the triumphant king, who in the role of a shepherd separates people into two groups, referring to them as sheep and goats.
The sheep are gathered on his right hand. I can picture happy faces beaming with an inner joy of stillness. Christ warmly welcomes them into the blessings and inheritance of heaven because “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” In effect, Christ has said to them: “I was crying, I was hurting and you comforted me. You helped me through my time of trouble.”
To which the sheep respond with gasps of surprise and wonder: “What are you talking about, Lord? When did we ever see you hungry, hurting or homeless? When did we ever see you in need?” Christ answers: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
After that, Christ turns his attention to those goats on his left hand. Here I imagine forlorn expressions of wide-eyed agitation. Milling impatiently, they are judged with a righteous fairness because they have seen individuals in the distress of hunger, thirst, imprisonment and loneliness, but chose to do nothing.
Condemned to a punishment utterly beyond our ability to fathom, the goats launch wails of protest: “What are you talking about, Lord? When did we ever see you hungry, hurting or homeless? When did we ever see you in need?” It is then that Christ unsheathes the sword that slices to our core: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
The Meaning Of Compassion
The point is that despite the lies we all whisper in the secret chambers of our heart, no one has an excuse to neglect those who have fallen into pits of misfortune or despair. We cannot abdicate our obligation to each other by transferring sole responsibility to religious, social or governmental agencies. We are to love everyone; we are to be personally involved and extend a helping hand wherever and whenever we can provide aid or solace to alleviate suffering.
We ought to resolve to cultivate a tenderhearted attitude, which manifests itself in acts of kindness that prevail even when the critical winds of our cynical culture threaten to howl. In the action of lending support or assistance we identify with those in dire straits and catch a glimpse of our own tenuous grasp on health and earthly security.
Modern-day scribes and Pharisees will most certainly continue to engage in debates on the whys and wherefores of human need, but in doing so they miss the focus of Christ’s meaning of compassion:
We are to be motivated by an empathy that sees Jesus in the weak, weary and downtrodden amongst us. We are to serve where service is needed simply because everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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