Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Days I Learned Compassion

Mine looked just like these.....wow!

I was so excited that day...I looked down and there they were, my bright new Red Ball canvas tennis shoes.  I got them for free in the mail.  My grandmother had sent off for them, she was a pioneer in the coupon and mail-in-rebate game.  She would always send of for this or that.  I would sit and watch her for hours on end, clipping and snipping, addressing rebate envelopes.  She had it down to a science.   And when I got something in the mail, it was a special surprise.

On that Sunday morning I wanted everyone to see my special Red-Ball-tennis-shoe surprise.  We pulled up to the familiar house and immediately Francis bounded out, like a race horse out of the gate.  She had been waiting for us.  She jumped into the backseat beside me, bringing with her the aroma of something fried, and wearing a rumpled dress.  I never really understood her enthusiam to go to church and Sunday School with us.  To me....it was the same verse every Sunday.  But that Sunday, you can guess what I showed her first.  Yup...my Red Ball canvas tennis shoes.  

She wasn't nearly as excited as I was about the shoes.  She looked back at her two room house with the roof that always needed a repair.  I saw a glimpse of sadness in her eyes.  I just kept looking at my new red shoes.  They were that spiffy, so bright, so new, so incredible.  I felt so pretty.  It never occurred to me at the young age of eight to give them away.  

My attention was suddenly torn from my new shoes to Francis' quiet manner.  I began to wonder what it was like to have a sick mom all the time.  I wondered what it was like to not have a hot meal on your table three times a day.  I had never been without but I knew Francis had.  My parents had taken her family groceries many times.  I wondered those weird-for-my-age thoughts as I kept looking down at my new red shoes.  I'm sure her dad did the best he could to take care of her.  I assumed they had help from others.  

One day we got news that her mom passed away.  I thought about Francis and wondered how lonely and alone she must have felt.  My sympathy deepened for her as I thought about my own attachment to my mom.  We took some food to her house, my parents stayed there for a long time.  It was all very hard for young heart to understand back then.  

Fast forward to adulthood and I can now see that those Francis days were really days that God sowed the seeds of compassion in my heart.  Seeds that have now grown into full-sized gifts to give the orphaned, the needy, the disadvantaged, the fatherless.  

I don't really know if it was that day of the Red Ball tennis shoes or just the faithful obedience of my parents that unlocked this passion deep in my soul.  My heart is pierced often on a daily basis when mine and the hearts of those who are less fortunate collide.  

Why am I telling you this?  I really just wanted to provoke some thought about God's gifts that maybe lying dormant in your soul.  Acknowledging your God given gifts is really an act of recovery instead of discovery.  I believe God gives them early on so they can be developed along the way.  I think about the many missed opportunities I had with Francis....to speak into her life and let her know that she is loved and that she matters.  That's why when asked to travel half-way around the world to hug on little African hearts, I am the first to jump on board the triple 7.  Secretly though....it's my heart that takes a leap of joy. The same feeling overwhelms me when I connect sponsors with children of Mission of Mercy, tears stream, and I am overcome with joy because my heart is caught in the throws of compassion.

Those red shoes are long gone, but they have left their footprint on my soul.  I treasure the feeling the shoes left.  I treasure God's gift of compassion.  I treasure the less fortunate who need to know that they are God's beautiful.  Even if I don't have have a pair of brand new Red Ball tennis shoes to give them.  

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