The eruption of the Volcano of Fire has me concerned for the friends and relationships that I’ve made and built over the past couple of years in Guatemala. Friends on Facebook have posted that they are safe, which leads me to believe that the tragedy is much worse than what can be conveyed in the press or on television.
Last summer, in the weeks before I returned, a terrible fire in an orphanage killed many children and led to national outrage. This year, a volcano that served as a beautiful landscape prop for a roof top dinner in Antigua has brought tears, anguish, and death to many families and neighbors.
Human suffering is so painful.
There is a lot of suffering in the world, some nature made, some caused by humankind. Living with a disability makes everything harder. Poverty, injustice, and oppression tends to magnify suffering. People endure such difficulty day-in, day-out. Then the mountain explodes.
If only I could take it all away. Suffer no more.
In my experience, the only meaningful response to suffering is empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It begins with being present. In other words, show up. Empathy takes root when you’re able to place yourself in the situation of another person. Open your heart. Open your eyes. Listen. Pray. Empathy matures with a conviction to respond. Be receptive to the movement of the Holy Spirit and act accordingly.
Empathy is the channel, through which God’s love and grace is poured into the world. Empathy allows love and relationships to become reciprocal, with God and with neighbors. Every occasion I have made a short term mission trip, I returned having received much more than I ever could have given. Love, kindness, humility, grace … you name it.
Empathy makes it possible for rescue, recovery, and rebuilding; for healing and restoration; for new life to become more than can ever be imagined. Empathy even makes it possible for individuals to disagree yet remain united by Christ.
Serving as a short term missionary builds empathetic capacity in my life. Serving with empathy could likewise benefit you, too. Join me?
The world would be a much better place.