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Too Big a Hurry for CompassionToo Big a Hurry for Compassion
by Dr. Bill Denton

Editor’s Note: A year ago, a horrible event changes us for awhile. We were more helpful. We were more compassionate. We were more polite in traffic and more patient with those who weren’t. For a time, we were reminded that some things are more important than getting to places in a hurry and sticking to our busy schedules. As the months after 9/11 passed, we drifted back to our maddening pace and our old habits. Dr. Bill Denton asks us to slow down, and examine our compassion today.

Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:30-34, NASB)

An ethics professor at Princeton Seminary asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. At two o’clock, fifteen students gathered at Speer Library. There he divided the group of fifteen into three groups of five each. He gave the first group of five envelopes telling them to proceed immediately across campus to Stewart Hall and that they had fifteen minutes to get there. If they didn’t arrive on time it would affect their grade. This he called the “High Hurry” group. A minute or two later he handed out envelopes to five others. Their instructions were to also go over to Stewart Hall, but they were given forty-five minutes. After they departed he gave the last of the envelopes with instructions to the third group, the “Low Hurry” group. They were given three hours to arrive at Stewart Hall. Now, unknown to any of these students, the teacher had arranged with three students from the Princeton University Drama Department to meet them along the way, acting as people in great need. In front of Alexander Hall one of the drama students was going around covering his head with his hands and moaning out loud in great pain. As they passed by Miller Chapel on their way to Stewart Hall they found a fellow who was on the steps lying face down as if unconscious. And finally on the very steps of Stewart Hall the third drama student was acting out an epileptic seizure. It’s interesting that of the first group no one stopped, of the second, two of the five stopped, and of the third group all five stopped. Maybe one of the reasons that the Good Samaritan was able to stop and help was because he had a more leisurely agenda, while the religious “pros” of Jesus’ day were living in the fast lane and simply had no time for interruptions. Their calendars may well have been filled with commitments that left them no leeway. (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited)

    When I first read Hewett’s illustration, I thought to myself, “No, that’s not right. The problem isn’t a hurried or leisurely agenda, the problem was a lack of compassion on the part of the Levite and priest. The Samaritan was commended for his compassion.” Then I got to thinking about it again. Perhaps Hewett has identified part of the problem with compassion. It takes time.

    You can’t be compassionate in a hurry. Compassion demands time. It insists that we sit down with people, that we get into their head, their heart, sometimes into their life. Compassion is a bother. It won’t be rushed into action. It pleads for you to stop a moment and find out how to help. There is no such thing as “compassion-lite.” Compassion is necessarily heavy — meaning that it is always weighty in how it responds.

    Years ago, someone suggested that I read through the gospels and find every occasion where Jesus feels compassion for people. The person who suggested this to me went on to say, “On every occasion, Jesus did something for someone.” I wonder if the reason we so frequently fail to do something for people is that we lack compassion? And, is the reason we lack compassion because we’re just basically uncaring people? Or is it because we’re in too much of a hurry trying to get somewhere?

    Think about this the next time you even suspect that a person might be a good candidate for your compassion. If you hesitate to pull over on the freeway of your life in order to render help, ask yourself, “Why?” It may just be that you will discover you are, indeed, in a hurry over something. And maybe it’s your hurry that is keeping you from helping where it’s needed. By the way, being in too big a hurry frequently leads to accidents and mistakes.

      © Copyright 2002, Dr. Bill Denton, CrossTies, All Rights Reserved. Articles may not be reprinted in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles.

      Title: "Too Big a Hurry for Compassion"
      Author: Dr. Bill Denton
      Publication Date: September 13, 2002

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