26 November 2006

Compassion, through my eyes

Shiloh has had a stomach bug all day today. It's not been pretty. But the worst part has not been cleaning up after her every time she takes a sip of water. Or the endless doggie laundry. Or the smell of dog barf. The worst part has been denying her food and water and being completely helpless while she's sick.

I called the vet. He told me to let it ride for 24 hours and see how she is. If she's not better by morning, I am supposed to call him again. But that was all I could do for her. And it broke my heart. Today I realized that my compassion for living things extends beyond my anxieties about germs and gross things. I began to understand that when the living being is your complete responsibility and depends on you for everything, you're willing to do whatever it takes to keep them as comfortable as possible. I also learned that it's true that you'd do anything for the one you care for. If I could have done anything at all to make the sickness go away, I would have done it for her. But instead I had to let her be sick, and that made me very, very sad.

Which made me think about compassion in general. After today I get why it is so hard to get people to care about the starving, the oppressed, the naked, the imprisoned, and the sick. Because we live in a sterile society where we don't have to see them. In Jesus' day, they hung out outside the temple, relying on the kindness of strangers for their lives. Today, they hang out at a homeless shelter on "the other side of town." When we live with those in need, we allow ourselves to see what it's really like for them and their pain becomes all the more real to us. We cannot turn it off, or turn our backs, when they are in our midst. We must confront the reality of their suffering head-on. And it is then that compassion takes over and we do whatever we can to help.

But we have to be willing to be where they are or we will never develop true compassion. You cannot "suffer with" someone unless you are, in fact, "with" them.

I never knew owning a puppy could teach me so much about the world, my God, and my responses to each. God save us from ourselves.

1 comment:

Ferris Family said...

Poor Shiloh. I'm glad she's doing better.
You think compassion for a dog is amazing, wait until it's one of your kids barfing and you trying to deny him food...