Last night my car broke down. Not that it’s ever convenient to have car problems, but I was parked behind a high school, deep in an isolated canyon with nothing but tarantulas and mountain lions around for miles. My son was one of the last kids off the football field after a late practice and as he hopped in, I heard a clicking sound instead of the engine coming to life. It sounded like a dead battery.
Fortunately, one of the moms also exiting saw my waving hand and stopped. She sent her husband home for jumper cables and we hung out in the cold night, with growling stomachs, kids running around and the baby howling along with the coyotes for a bottle. Shockingly, a few last stragglers walked by and observed our little woebegone party — two women, three children and a baby standing around a car with the hood open, obviously in distress, and not one of them stopped or asked if we needed help.
It’s a story told all too often in our society… of people passing by and not heeding the call of those in distress. Now obviously we weren’t in imminent danger, and we did not ask for help, but the other mom seemed pretty indignant that we were ignored.
I would suggest that their lack of concern is more normal than not, and I am generally more surprised when people do offer assistance. Heroic acts these days are few and far between, and when they do occur, somebody probably has a video to capture it for YouTube. Because, when nobody else is looking, when the credits don’t roll, it’s just too easy to turn our eyes away and pretend not to notice. Ignorance is bliss, right?
The Darwinist mentality seems to have pervaded our culture so deeply that survival of the fittest means we overlook the aging, disabled and stranded. What this reveals about our society is a startling lack of compassion and an indication that somewhere along the way we have learned to care more for ourselves than for the greater good.
I know that if I am honest, my own heart is inherently selfish and my gut reaction is rarely to stop what I am doing, surrender my agenda, and dive into the need at hand. More often, I feel a tug in my spirit, choose to heed or ignore the nudge, and then usually, but not always, try to help.
When I look at the ministry of Jesus, I am struck by how the interruptions of need seemed to define his entire ministry. He did more healing, teaching and revelation in the unplanned moments than any organized preaching. His agenda seemed to incorporate the unplanned and invite the messy in.
And so, I am challenged to create space in my life for the unexpected, the things I can’t put in my agenda but may define my identity far more than my busy schedule.
The journey of compassion is the road less traveled. It whispers to look beyond ourselves and glimpse that which is sacred. It loves our neighbor simply for loves sake.
That’s the message I want to teach my kids. It’s the banner I want to wear across my own heart. To never be so busy that I can’t stop, engage in humanity, and get my hands a little bit dirty.
But if your car breaks down…my help might consist of a little company and a cell phone. Mechanics are just not my gift!