Compassion and Empathy

Compassion and Empathy

We at Erdington Elim sing a song called Mighty To Save that starts with the line “Everyone needs compassion”:

Today more than ever how true this is? As we watch on TV the hospital situation and care homes etc. it is hard not to be filled with compassion and empathy – we really do feel the need that our world is going through.

So what is compassion? Compassion is the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another. 

What is empathy? To understand or feel what another being is experiencing from within and to be able to place oneself in another’s position.

Have you ever read to your children the books by Dr. Seuss? One famous character is Horton the Elephant. Horton is such a kind and compassionate character. I think we all could learn a lot from Horton. I believe we can learn from this story. “Horton Hears a Who!” 

At the beginning of the story, Horton was splashing around in a cool jungle pool when he heard a small voice crying for help. He looked all around, but he did not see anyone. All he saw was a tiny speck of dust floating through the air. Horton realised that there was someone on that speck of dust who was calling for help. 

As it turned out, there was a whole town of people on that little speck of dust. They were calling out for help because they were afraid that the speck of dust would fall into the pool of water and they would drown. Even though they were so small that he couldn’t even see them, Horton made up his mind that he was going to help them.

 “After all,” he said, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”Why don’t you say it out loud and think about this statement?

All of the other animals in the jungle thought Horton was crazy. 

First, a kangaroo, then some monkeys, and finally an eagle all made fun of Horton for wanting to help the people on the speck of dust. Why, they even tried to put Horton in a cage.

Even though none of the other animals would help him, Horton refused to give up. He remained faithful to the task of saving the tiny people who needed his help. Because of his faithfulness, the tiny people were saved and finally, the other animals realised that just as Horton had said, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Let’s say it together.

The story of Horton reminds me of a story Jesus told. This is the model which the Christian faith is based upon.

One day, a person asked Jesus what he had to do to live forever. Jesus asked him what the Bible said. The person answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.” 

Jesus answered, “You are right. Do this and you will live.” Then the person asked Jesus another question. “Who is my neighbour?” 

To answer this question, Jesus told a story about a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. 

They beat him, took his money, and left him beside the road to die.

A priest came by and when he saw the man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and continued on his way.

A little while later, another person who worked in the temple came along. He also saw the man lying there and passed by on the other side of the road.

Finally, a man from Samaria came along, and when he saw the man, he stopped to help him. He put medicine on his wounds and wrapped them with bandages. That isn’t all. He took the man to a Travelodge and took care of him. The next day, he gave the manager of the Travelodge some money and told him to take care of the man. “Give him anything he needs. If it costs more than I have given you, I will pay you the next time I am here.”

Then Jesus asked, “Which of these three men was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by the robbers.” The person answered, “The one who helped him.”

“You are right,” said Jesus, “now you go and do the same.”

Jesus has told us to love our neighbour. If you have trouble knowing who your neighbour is, just remember the story of “Horton Hears a Who!” and the story of the Good Samaritan and then you will know that every person is your neighbour and “A neighbour’s a neighbour, no matter how small!” Let’s say it together.

Dear Father, help us to love you with all our hearts and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Amen.