Gift Assistance and Tangible Empathy

“You have sure your hands full, don’t you!”

This is the common remark when I’m out and about, one hand tugging on a runaway toddler while my infant stirs on my chest, nestled in the carrier.  Often I smile, nodding in agreement, and say, “Yes, two under two is a challenge.  It’s good though, I love seeing them interact.”

Often strangers aren’t malicious.  We don’t know what to say in circumstances very different than our own.  Fearing silence, we often fill the space with unwarranted advice, seemingly callous remarks, or purposeless babble.  There are truths that can exist as truth and don’t need to be stated.  Anyone who has ever raised a toddler knows they aren’t easy to instruct.  I know the lady who recently told me this wasn’t trying to be cruel.  She was trying, as best she knew how, to show empathy.  Yet, I didn’t receive it well.

Too often we talk about struggle, myself included.  We say there needs to be change.  We criticize and critique, while we ourselves go unchecked.  If we want things to be different, we must be those agents.  We can’t sit idly by.  We must act.

I’m grateful for this season.  It is making me realize the struggles of others.  I’m judging less because I can feel the judgments of others.  There is too much negativity and haughtiness.  There is too much back story and nuance for me to know every person’s reactions.  We judge without regard for what might have caused the tones of others, their motivations.

So as I read in an article that resonated with me, don’t just speak platitudes.  Help the woman with three bags in her hands.  Assist the wandering souls.  Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty.  Let them know you are Christian by active love.  Through my circumstances, I’m learning that the empty words aren’t helping.  As my toddler decides the street is a very good place to nap, I’m learning that other moms are trying to resist the urge to scream as they sternly correct their children.  Rather than criticizing a parenting choice, I can run over and ask if a mom needs help holding a younger child, if she wants me to put bags in the trunk, if she needs a sitter, if she wants me to buy or prepare a meal.  (The same would go for a father who appears to be overwhelmed in a moment of wrangling children.)

This season let’s start changing the world by being the change we want to see.  Let us stop saying things should be different and start acting differently.  It won’t be perfect.  We’ll mess up.  We’ll have our own schedules interfere, we might act selfishly from time to time, and we might be so consumed in our own thoughts that we don’t notice, but let us at least try.  Every project has to start somewhere.  Let us start now, in this magnified season of giving, and continue to press on, being ever transformed so that his will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.  God is in control, but he created us to be operative in his story.  It is in and through us that God has revealed himself and it is in and through us that we can help bring about his kingdom on earth.

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