The phone rings and I hesitate as caller ID flashes into view. I don’t have to press ‘answer’. I already know the question.
My eyes wander back to the screen where the half-written email waits patiently for the return of my attention. Reaching for the phone now. “This isn’t a convenient time,” I thought. “Say, no. You have to say no.”
There’s a laundry hamper brimming with activewear – after all, we are busy people. And our fridge is stocked well for a feast, as long as it’s made completely of condiments. I desperately need to go shopping. The dentist appointment tomorrow and the hair appointment the day after that.
The phone has now rung twice.
Oh shoot! I promised to babysit all day Thursday. And when will I find time to write get-well cards? My thoughts are like springs, bouncing from cell to cell, gathering reason.
The phone has now rung three times.
The freelance editing job I promised to complete lays on my desk, thesaurus and grammar guide wide open, purple ink pen at the ready. This job I prayed for, and now time escapes as though the Earth has cracked and minutes are slipping through.
The request just inside the ringing phone is not convenient. But I answer.
The voice on the other side is weak and tearful. “I’m having a hard day,” she says. “Would you be able to take me to lunch soon?” I think, but then do not say, what I’m thinking. I already know the right answer.
“Could I take you to lunch tomorrow? I can pick you up right after my dentist appointment.”
Doing the next right thing colors outside the lines of convenience.
Retirement has turned the virtues of a non-scheduled life into a teeter-totter of chaotic commitments. The things that are convenient rarely align with those of highest value.
Instead of clambering to meet a deadline, I took my friend to lunch, and afterward we took a long, quiet drive over miles of country roads, revisiting the area where she once lived, married, and raised her children for over 90 years.
Love isn’t a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of compassion.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8
Love in its broadest sense is love for one’s neighbor, it is dedication of the individual in society. That same society – modern – in which the feeling of love between human beings has increasingly taken on the contours of the principles that regulate the economy and which therefore responds more to the selfish needs of the market than to a true human impulse.
I believe that if empathy is the true path to follow to generate love, feeling inside and understanding others without any conditions, compassion is the indispensable means to follow it.
The two words complement each other, because there can be no compassion without empathy: being compassionate is giving meaning and direction to being empathetic, it is the will to accomplish that exists between empathy and love.