"So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Galatians 6:10, MSG
Can compassion be taught? I believe after hearing this story you will know it can.
I know you aren't getting on a plane anytime soon. I get it. But you will still get what I'm saying when I ask this question: Have you ever tried to board a plane with your child? (you just groaned, didn't you?) If so, I hear ya. It's not something one looks forward to, right? I have seen many women boarding a plane with their children, young moms trying desperately to calm them. Now, this doesn't happen ALL the time or to every mom, but I don't think you'd hear one woman who would raise their hand and actually volunteer to do this.
Let me tell you about a mom I saw at an airport with a three-year-old daughter who began kicking and crying on one arm and her hungry four-year-old also wailing at full blast. They came toward the back of the plane. *cue scary organ music here* I know EVERY passenger was quietly praying her seat wasn't beside them. One guy 'lost.'
However, this man didn't roll his eyes or groan, try to find another seat, or spend the whole time making unnecessary trips to the bathroom. Instead, this dude, let's just call him Mr Jesus, offered to hold the baby while she got her kid buckled in and then, coloured with said buckled toddler for the ENTIRE trip.
Because of this man's generousity of his own plane-time, it allowed HER the longer minutes to feed her infant while her toddler was conversing animatedly with Mr Jesus - who answered EVERY comment. See why I named him that? ;)
Some might say she was lucky. She could have been seated next to anyone of us losers who was internally wishing for sleep aids and earplugs, right?
In 2 Samuel 9, we read of another example of sacrificial and clearly intentional compassion. After King Saul and his heir Jonathan were murdered in battle, some assumed David would kill off any rival for his place on the thrown. Instead, in verse 3, this is what David asked: "Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God's kindness?"
I mean ... right?
Mephibosheth (I know - say that three times fast), Jonathan's son, was then brought to David, who knew how to be a compassionate person, immediately changed that boy's heritage from Saul's family to his own. He sympathetically and affectionately invited him to "share his table" - just as if he were his own kid.
You may know I have two adopted sons. I am not telling you this to say I'm anything like king David, the bet example of compassion. I struggle with the challenges any mom faces when there are kids living under her roof who are not her own fruit. It challenges me ALL. THE. TIME. However, my dear husband (who is aptly named David), is a master of grace and patience. Even when things are hitting rock bottom he takes every possibility to show intentional kindness toward our sons. Not that I don't! He just does it WAY better and takes every opportunity. ;-)
Being trapped in a plane is not TOO unlike what we are dealing with right now. Except the plane is our living room and there is no kind stranger to occupy our children while we manage our house. There is television and PlayStation or X-box or a number of other "screen savers." And these things are extremely helpful sometimes! But not ALL times.
I believe compassion will make you beautiful. As an heiress of the limitless compassion of God, I am challenging myself to watch for those opportunities to show intentional kindness too.
How about you? In these days of uncertainty it is pretty satisfying to remember why why compassion is so important and how intentional compassion can change the world. You have been given a challenge to find out if it can be taught, consider what compassion means to you and live out compassion in action.
And you don't have to get on a plane to do it. ;-)