Recently, a woman with only one hand was selling lottery tickets on the
sidewalk in my adopted city, Chiangmai, Thailand. Wanting my 3-year-old
daughter, Erika, to learn compassion, I whispered to her, See that
woman. She only has one hand.
Before I knew what was happening, Erika ran up to her. As she began to
feel the womans wrist-stub, she asked, How come you only have one
Speechless, I stood there debating if I should apologize for my
daughter. Erika is young and didnt know her familiarity and frankness
was wrong. In my silence, the woman spoke first. Her words deeply
saddened me. She began to explain how she was born this way because of
her karma. She was punished for the evil she had done in a previous
life. You see, in much of Thailand, they still view deformities, birth
defects, and physically maiming injuries to be deservedpunishment
for some private sin.
Standing there speechless, my mind began racing to find some Christian
response to her statement. Meanwhile, Erika continued making small
talk. She touched and held the womans other twisted, deformed hand.
All I managed to communicate before we departed was some insignificant
As we walked away, I knew the woman had not felt my heart-felt
compassion. On the other hand, Erika had not kept her compassion in her
heart. She had expressed it through a loving touch and caring
conversation. My little girl taught me the real lesson that day.
Commenting on compassion, a close friend said, I dont know why Im
usually embarrassed when some of mine seeps out for view. This
quick-teared sister is usually the first to comfort those who are
hurting. By sharing hears tears and hugs with others in their moments of
sorrow and pain, she expresses compassion in a beautiful way. Such
genuine expressions of love and concern often convey compassion more
powerfully than words.
Maybe you find it difficult to begin a compassionate conversation.
Striving to find the perfect words often keeps us from saying or
communicating anything. For strength at these times we need to claim the
words of Jesus,
do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At
that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you
speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matt.
10:19-20) Along with the power of Jesus promise, remember the lesson
of Erika: genuinely shared compassion, expressed in actions and kind
words of concern, is always better than the most perfect speech that
never gets said.
I e-mailed the above story about Erika to several friends. The first
response I received was from a friend who is currently going though a
divorce. He said, Compassion seems to be a rare commodity these days,
except in children. Wow, sounds like he really needs a hug and someone
to compassionately listen.
There are so many hurting people all around us. Just as Jesus
compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless
9:36), we need to see the world through the eyes of Jesus and freely
give an encouraging word, our shared tears, or a loving touchjust like
Erika and Jesus!