It was humanly impossible to hear this scream and not feel pain. This was not play-acting. There was something wrong, and someone was in trouble.
Marti and I were talking in the kitchen last night as we normally do when we were interrupted by screaming outside the dining room window. At first I thought it was children playing, but a closer examination revealed someone clearly in distress. We were having empathy for someone in trouble. Marti called out the window to see if they needed help and heard a “Yes,” with a couple more “OMG”s thrown in. We called 911 and the police were there in minutes. Unfortunately they did not find anything, so either it was a false alarm or someone is covering up. Empathy led us to feel something was wrong; compassion led us to call for help.
And we would do it again. That’s because we were sure it was a real distress call. We were momentarily in another person’s shoes, and we could feel the pain. To ignore it would have been like watching a person drown and walking away without telling anyone.
There is a huge need for empathy and compassion in our society right now. Battle lines are already drawn. People are more interested in fighting than in helping or healing. Everyone is taking sides instead of coming together. There are major moves globally towards isolation. People are pulling back into themselves. Cries are going unheard, or if they are heard, they are being ignored.
We can’t live this way as carriers of Christ. We have a responsibility to connect — to turn grace outward —and extend the very grace that God has bestowed upon us. This is why He put us here. Empathy will connect us with people in terms of their fear, their heartache, their pain, their abuse, their sin, guilt and judgment — deserved or not — we can identify, and we can come alongside because of that empathy, and walk with them. We know these feelings too, but Christ has also shown His light in our hearts; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). We carry this around through no effort of our own, but because God turned on the light. So what we do and where we go is significant.
Empathy connects us; the Holy Spirit — who comes along with us as we come alongside someone — will do the rest.