Last night was unforgettable.
The Cubs won the World Series for the first time Since 1908, making history.
This photo I took (my Father in Law’s clever idea) was reposted and on the top of Reddit’s front page again and going viral.
Enough fun and excitement for one night. But before I was even aware of those things, I was in a mid-sized room with concrete floors, gathered with people from at least 20 Nations, ranging in age from newborn babes to grandparents, listening to a story about a little boy who gave all that he had so others could live.
I had heard this story before, but the Costa Rican man who shared it with us presented it from a perspective that I had never recognized before.
The story goes like this…
There was a man who people began to notice because He was going around from town to town doing amazing things. He was befriending the lowly, loving the criminals, and spending time with the outcasts. He was so out of the ordinary that a group of guys started following him around so they could learn to be like him.
One day, this man’s cousin, and one of his most beloved, was murdered. Beheaded to be exact. He was grieved, so he fled to an isolated place to be alone.
It seems like the people didn’t care so much to give him any space, and they followed him. Not just a little group of people, but a multitude of 10,000. The crowd was full of people who were ill, impoverished, and looking for some hope.
The man, instead of ignoring them so that he could grieve his loss, started to perform healings among them. He got carried away, losing track of time, and some of the men who had been following him told him it was getting late, that they should send everyone home and find something to eat.
Clearly these guys were only thinking of themselves. Indifferent to the needs of the crowd who had made the long journey by foot.
Their leader responded, “they don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.” And he asked one of them what he thought they should do. He was testing him, hoping that after all the time they had spent with him, they would know what to do.
Using his logic, the follower gave a reasonable answer, “it would cost more than half a year’s salary to buy enough food for all these people to have just one bite!”
Then, one of the man’s other followers came up and said, “this little boy has five loaves of barley and two little fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
This is the part that changed the whole story for me —
The loaves were made of barley. In the time that this story took place, barley was what the poorest people ate, which tells us that this young boy came from a family with very little. Remember that the man had withdrew to an isolated place, which means the crowds had traveled far to follow him. He probably had made a long journey to come and see the man, so his mom had prepared something for him to eat. It was all that he had. He was also probably alone, because in the culture and time that this happened, children and adolescents weren’t acknowledged. If his parents had been with him, they would have been the ones mentioned in the story instead of him.
So, here’s this little poor boy, voluntarily offering to share the only food that he has. Among ten thousand! It’s unlikely that he was the only one who had packed a snack, yet he was the only one willing to share!
By now, you might have noticed that this is a familiar story. It’s about Jesus and His disciples. His disciples who had been following him for a good amount of time – who had seen him heal the sick and perform various miracles. After all their time of knowing him, they weren’t concerned with helping out the people in the crowds – a multitude with real needs.
The person in this story who showed the most compassion, who looked the most like Jesus, was the little boy. Instead of keeping his food for himself, he offered it up to be shared.
And all the people were fed to satisfaction. In the end, there were even plenty of leftovers – five full baskets!
Last night in that room, listening to this Costa Rican guy share the story, my heart was confronted.
Have I been living like those disciples, or like that little boy?
The speaker talked about how sometimes when we see people in need, we either respond with compassion — which is always accompanied by an action — or, we respond with pity, which is just like “oh, poor homeless guy, what a horrible situation,” but we do nothing about it, or “oh, poor refugees and orphans,” but we just change the channel or keep scrolling down the computer screen from the comfort of our couch, choosing indifference.
Pity is useless.
Compassion is transformational.
Compassion is suffering along with them. It’s taking an action, making a sacrifice, giving all we have so that they can know love and encounter hope.
Compassion is messy and uncomfortable.
It’s opening up our doors, inviting in the outcasts, the impoverished, and the lost. It’s going to the places that nobody wants to go, because it’s hard, it’s dangerous, and it’s unpredictable.
It’s giving up all our loaves and all our fish, believing that the little we have can be multiplied by the most revolutionary man to ever walk the earth, and reach people with a hope and a love that will change their life forever.