Saturday, April 5, 2008 11:13 PM
"Any advice?" the man e-mailed. He had joined the Stephen Ministry in his church. (Stephen Ministry is a voluntary organization that started more than 30 years ago to provide one-on-one Christian care to hurting people.)
His question made me think of what I call convenient compassion. That is, people will volunteer and give of themselves to others—providing it doesn't disrupt their schedule too much. They'll involve themselves short-term and express love and sympathy, and whatever others need—as long as that commitment doesn't interfere with the givers' plans.
I became aware of convenient compassion years ago when Shirley and I were full-time caregivers. Edith was near the end of her life and needed Depend diapers. During that time, Shirley reluctantly left for a women's convention after she had assured herself that Edith knew how to take off and put on the diapers.
The next day, Edith became confused, couldn't figure out how to change her own diaper, and made a terrible mess. No matter how much I begged, she was too modest to allow a man to help. I started to make phone calls. The county agencies were closed for the weekend. In desperation, I called three nurses in our church. All of them offered advice. When I asked, "Could you come and help me?" I received excuses from two. The third changed the subject. I got the message: It wasn't convenient.
Before she became extremely ill, Edith had attended a different church. I called the pastor's wife. "I'll be there within the hour," she said. True to her word, she came and brought Tillie with her. Tillie was the full-time caregiver of a paralyzed husband and had to find someone to stay with him so she could help Edith. The two women spent three hours cleaning up Edith and the mess.
I don't write this to rebuke those three nurses. Their attitude made me look at my own convenient compassion. I liked to help—but it had to be on my timetable. And it seemed that the most demanding situations occurred when I was already overwhelmed with a heavy load of responsibilities. Why did the cries for help come on those days when I was busiest?
Or would my reaction have been the same no matter when they asked? Probably. My concern was for me, my activities, and my life. Since our fire a year ago, I've reflected more fully on my life and made a few significant promises to myself. One of them is that I want to move beyond convenience compassion. I want to live so that the words of Jesus reflect my lifestyle: "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:35 NLT). I'm slowly learning to do the right thing because it is the right thing, even when it's not convenient.