If you watch the news or read news coverage you’ll encounter stories of suffering. People experience loss, hurt, and injustice every day. When a story is just a headline or a few basic facts it’s easy to be detached. This happened for me with the shootings last week in Arizona. I saw that a politician had been shot, as well as a few bystanders. My immediate reaction was to feel sadness for the families of the people involved. But I quickly moved on.
Then I saw something on Twitter that grabbed my attention:
Suddenly the shootings in Arizona meant a lot more to me.
I don’t really know Dallas Green. He managed the Phillies to their first ever World Series victory in 1980. For that reason he will always have a place in Philly sports lore. Shortly after the championship he moved on to work for the Chicago Cubs for years. Then he came back to work for the Phillies as a senior adviser (a role he is currently in). In his role as an adviser for the Phillies I have seen him interviewed many times. I respect him as a baseball man. He knows the game. I’ve sat near him at minor league games when he was scouting (it took superhuman self-control not to go talk to him, he was working, it would have been rude to bother him). So even though I really do not know him, on some level I feel a connection to him.
The shootings in Arizona involve a grieving grandfather I know something about. A man I’ve listened to, respected, and admired. A man who just lost his 9 year-old granddaughter in a senseless act of violence. Dallas made a brief statement to the media, and his pain was evident. Sylvia, his wife, cried and said “They shot our beautiful Christina” in disbelief and hurt. I can’t imagine what the Green family is experiencing right now; my thoughts and prayers are with them.
This situation reminded me of how desensitized I am to the suffering that goes on around me. I was so quick to dismiss the story until I saw a familiar face etched in grief. Suddenly it was not a stranger suffering, it was someone I knew, and the pain was real. This makes me uncomfortable. Why am I so selective about caring? My immediate thought is but I can’t care about everybody.
In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus is asked by an expert in the law what to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law says. The expert replies: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus tells him he got it right. But the expert seems to feel some discomfort with this, so he asks: “Who is my neighbor? And Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. Suddenly the happiness the expert in the law felt about being told he got an answer right was gone. In all likelihood his day was ruined. That parable is convicting.
I know I can’t feel empathy for everyone in the world. What I want to lose is the coldness that comes from being self-centered and unaware of those around me. All too often I fail to realize that the pain is real.