I’ve never been abused, never been seriously harmed by another human being, never been truly poor or scared for my life, and because of all this I wonder if my capacity for compassion is limited.
Wess’ story is different from mine. Growing up in Kenya, the son of missionaries, he watched his brown skinned childhood friends die – held one of them in his arms in the jungle and sang him into heaven. He spent much of his little boy years in a school for missionary kids, run by missionary wannabes angry that they were in school and not in the field. They took their anger out on the children, subjecting Wess and his friends to horrendous physical and mental abuses. He knows poverty, pain, and the full range of emotions they fuel. I wonder if the rough edges of his life have carved out large spaces in him that God has filled up with compassion.
As I’ve mentioned before, we got to hang out with a bunch of Ethiopian university graduates this week. We sat in a circle telling our stories and asking each other questions. I got moments of that time on tape and this moment is one I’m betting frees some people who watch it from the cycle of resentment and anger, empties their heart of that venom and makes room for compassion.
Thanksgiving, for a lot of people, is a time of tension. Family visits and brings pain with it. Or there is no family and the loneliness brings pain of another kind. My prayer is this video, this story, brings some people healing. Maybe that’s some of what Wess’ pain was for – to free the rest of us.