I think the world would be a much better place if we shared more. I can remember learning the concept of sharing when I was a child. A friend came over to play and I was forced to share my toys with him. I did not want to do it. It was not in my nature as a three year old. What if he broke it? What if he was better with it? Yet my Mom made me share. It was the right thing to do.
We share our time, our resources and our talents in many ways. We give to people and things that are important to us. I give to Canterbury. No one makes me, it is not part of my job. I give because I believe in this mission. Canterbury makes a difference in this world because it makes a difference in people’s lives. I see it everyday so I invest my time, talent and treasure (You can too by the way, see below).
There is a deeper kind of sharing…
One of my favorite authors is Fredrick Buechner and here is an amazing insight he shares:
“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Have you had this experience? I have and in many ways it is my vocation. As a priest and pastor I step into difficult and painful, situations. To see life through the eyes of a wounded, lost, broken individual is difficult but necessary. In those moments sometimes it calls for action. I am to do something to bring about a remedy and ease the suffering. Sometimes it is simply a ministry of presence, being there in a posture of listening, receiving, touching and feeling. I’ve been there for others and others have been there for me. This process of seeing life through the eyes of another is called empathy.
A few years ago I went through a difficult time. I won’t go into details but I was struggling. It must have been something people could notice. I felt like a fool and an utter failure.
I am blessed with many friends. Two in particular have been mentors in my life. In this complicated and trying time both of these men, on their own, about a week apart came to see me. Traveling a great distance they came to check on their friend. They entered my life, felt my pain and were a healing presence of compassion. They had empathy for me.
I am sure I could have muddled through those challenging days but I did not have to. My friends mediated to me a deep concern and love. They gave themselves to me at great cost to themselves. This kind of empathy is a hallmark of true friendship. Someone who shares themselves with you and are committed to your peace and joy. It is lacking in this world. It does not have to be; you and I can see to that.
George Bailey in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life is reminded of this from his guardian angel Clarence in an inscription in a book he receives at the end of the movie:
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