So last week I had the opportunity to experience first-hand one of the things I preach about on a regular basis here on this blog. Namely – the world is a better place when humanity comes together…
As I’ve mentioned here a number of times, back in 20011 I was faced with a profoundly difficult decision. My business was struggling and my father-in-law had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my wife strongly felt we needed to be closer to her family and I was worried about what the future held for my career.
It was on July 1, 2011, while walking through a quite park, with the celebratory Canada Day fireworks going off in the back ground that I came to the conclusion that my life was at a cross-roads, I could clearly see both paths laid out before me, both led to uncertain futures, one involved staying put and dealing with reinventing my business for a new generation of consumers, the other involved moving 500 km away and starting over in an entirely new city away from everyone and everything I had spend nearly 20 years building.
I chose to move.
In a word, that move was hell. There were several promises made, plans started and assurances given that never materialized. The new career was slow to gain traction and my father-in-laws condition deteriorated faster than anticipated. We were forced to live in a basement, surrounded boxes containing all of our worldly possessions, without windows or proper ventilation for almost four years.
As my sister has often said; “We plan while God laughs.” But He also puts in place a better alternative if we just have to patience to wait for it. Within weeks of moving I had found a great community of Christ-followers motivated by mutual respect, compassion and a sense of family. God’s plan was in motion.
The word compassion comes from Latin “compati” which means “to suffer with” or “to suffer along-side”. Compassion leads to a community focused understanding and coming together to work with people in need, find solutions to problems and alleviate suffering. But it’s more than that, it’s also a willingness to get down in the dirt and experience the suffering first hand in order to understand it before trying to fix anything.
That’s what my new church family did with me.
While my wife and I struggled to help my father-in-law, deal with the consequences of the broken promises and slow growth in my new career our friends never once tried to “fix” us with platitudes or superficial band-aids. They instead came along side us, joined in our pain and provided support in ways that showed understanding, respect and love far more deeply than any quick fix or pat on the back could ever have accomplished.
And then, after almost four years of broken promises and delayed dreams we were finally able to move into our new home. That’s when the real coming together happened. No fewer than 8 members of our new church family stepped up to help. It was the smoothest, least stressful move of my entire life. In less than 3 hours we had loaded the truck, driven to the new place and unloaded.
I’m still a bit sore from all the heavy lifting and we still have a number of boxes to open and go through but the bulk of the work is done and I personally only lifted a fraction of my own possessions. Because that’s what a compassionate community does. They come along-side, suffer with and in my case quite literally carry each others burdens.
While all this was going on one friend of mine couldn’t help because he was on his way to Africa to be part of a learning team. Their mission is to see how best we can come along-side our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe fighting AIDS and poverty in the sub-Sahara region. My personal example of community compassion seems trivial when compared to the suffering of so many world-wide. But it stems from the same place. The apostle Paul said it best;
Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. [Galatians 6:2-6]
The law of Christ is simply to love God, and love your neighbor. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor lives next door, up the street or on the other side of the world. Love is compassion and compassion is coming along-side and bearing each others burdens.
Whose burden can you carry today?