A lesson from the Sunday comics

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When I was little, my dad would sit me on his lap on Sunday mornings and read the newspaper’s “Funny Pages” to me. To this day when I read the comics, I feel a warm, cozy connection to a time long ago when the world was simpler, and a day started with chuckles. 

Every so often there will be a poignant message — a needed to read tidbit — written within the colored panels of a comic strip. Mutt’s creator, Patrick McDonnell, is an expert in raising awareness on issues regarding the humane treatment of animals. One of which included this quote:

“When we choose to live in a world with little or no empathy… we all suffer.”

Most of us have compassion for those who are suffering, but how many times does our sympathy move us to act? I turn my head when I see those heart-wrenching stories of starving children in the world and then wonder why turning my head was necessary. Is it because I didn’t want to see truth or was it because if I did, I would feel a need to help? 

We can’t possibly single-handedly cure the world because we empathize with everyone, but we must never lose our ability to feel another’s pain, suffering and need. 

As a young single mother, I was behind a teen-aged woman in the grocery line on a busy Saturday. My 3-year-old son was sitting in the cart asking for every candy he saw while we waited to checkout. As the girl in front of me placed multiple cans of formula on the conveyor, she turned toward me. She was barefooted, disheveled and bone thin. 

“Do all children beg as he does?” she asked as if hoping I would say, “No, just mine?”

“Well, yes they do. This is my third, and you just have to keep saying no and ignore them!” I replied with a laugh. 

I could tell I just scared her blond hair white, and then realized she was terrified thinking of her future.

She stated, “My baby boy is only a few weeks old, I hope I can handle him!”

As she reached into her pocket and pulled all the change and dollars she had to pay for her formula, my heart sank. A sense of deep sorrow engulfed me, and I felt an intense need to aid this young woman.

I had very little money, I said a silent prayer, told her to put her money away, and I bought the formula. She waved goodbye thanking me for helping her as tears brimmed in both of our eyes.

I was no hero or a goody two shoes, and I am not telling you this to espouse myself as some kind saint because I am not. Sometimes, God puts weight on our hearts, and it is in that moment he is urging us to help. 

Many of us give to specific causes or charities which we relate to or support. However, what about the elderly gentleman in front of us at the store who needs a hand carrying his groceries, or the woman who sat alone in church on Sunday, crying?

When we ignore those who could use our help during a moment in our day or when it is not convenient for us, do we turn away or do we volunteer to help? Do we stop to feel the weight God placed in our hearts?

Our compassion for others is not only in how we treat someone by our actions, but also our empathy should be used in how we choose our words. Do we think about how others feel before we say disparaging things about them? Do we criticize and belittle because it seems to be acceptable in today’s world to be a bit hard-hearted? 

Human kindness, compassion and caring for others is what will aid us the most in reducing evil and suffering in the world. And, it all starts with each one of us. It does not begin in churches or schools, but instead in our homes and in our souls. 

Perhaps it is time to go back to a simpler time within our hearts. A time when folks gave a dollar to an outstretched hand, gave time to someone’s sadness, gave silence to angry words, and when we were taught that empathy and love were as valuable as gold.

A time when our parents told us on Sunday morning, “God is watching all that you do and hears all that you say.” And we believed them.