“Though Jesus wanted solitude, when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, and He healed the sick and the lame.”– Matthew 14:14
This is one of my favorite verses in all of scripture. To me, this is a moment when we witness through our reading, the immeasurably deep love that God pours out on us. As Jackie and I were preparing the Reflection Journal we would use with the youth going on the work camp we read this text and decided compassion would be how we would try to frame our week in Minneapolis.
On Sunday night, we read this verse and asked the youth what their definition of compassion was. We had many great answers, most centering around loving and caring for others and being moved to help them. On Friday morning, as we prepared to leave, we asked the youth to look at the definition they had written on Sunday and see if it had changed. Here are some of their responses:
Sylvie Bowen-Bailey: Compassion is not just feeling for others, but feeling with them. If someone is in pain, it pains you. If someone rejoices, you become elated.
Talia Beech-Brown: Compassion is understanding where other people are coming from and helping them with that knowledge.
Isabelle Schomberg: Compassion is feeling what other people feel. Empathizing with them and wanting to do something for them. You have to feel their pain and step into their shoes.
Frost Bowen-Bailey: Compassion is a deep caring for others, and the willingness to act on it. I think this addition is the most important thing I realized this week.
We then asked the Youth to share a time when they had felt compassion. Here are some of their responses:
Brita Larsen: I felt compassion when I was at the free store on Tuesday and Wednesday as I talked to people, listened to their stories, and found out about their past as I helped them in the situation that had brought them to the free store.
Andrea Brown: I felt compassion when we left Kaleidoscope and all the kids were hugging us.
Lydia Peterson: I felt compassion towards those who have recently been bullied, lost someone, or hurt in some way and need support.
Henry Bray: I felt compassion for Yvonne, whose house I painted. She was incredibly nice and even made cookies for the entire group.
Diana Hanka: At the Free Store, I felt compassion for all the homeless or needy searchers who came looking for clothes, blankets, shoes, etc.
Isaac Wilkowske: I felt compassion for Al and Sue on Wednesday because they had deteriorating vision and needed help.
Mari Doffin: I felt compassion when I helped Yvonne. She needed her story to be heard and we listened. She needed someone to be there for her and we were.
Every day, during our reflection time, we read a different scripture verse. We read about the Good Samaritan; we heard Jesus say that whatever we do to others, we do to him; we read in James that if we truly have faith, then we will work to build the beloved community; and in Zechariah we learned that we are called to support everyone, especially those cast aside by society.
We also read 1 John 4:12 which says that “if we love one another, God lives in us.” We then talked about how, if God lives in us, then God lives in others and that we are to look for the face of God in those around us. At the end of the week, we asked where the youth had seen the face of God, here are some responses:
Alex Martins: I saw God’s face in Cynthia who spoke on Thursday night. From hearing her story it makes me realize that she did not have the best life, but she was so grateful for everything she did have, the story she had touched my heart.
Sophie Larkin: I saw the face of God in all the kids me, Andrea, Lydia, and Talia worked with this week.
Ian Erickson: I saw the face of God in all of the people we had the privilege of working with this week.
Courtney Simpson: I saw the face of God in the manager of the Center Café because she gave up so much time for free just to help the people.
Andrew Green: I saw God’s face when helping and talking to Sue and Al.
Ellie Hoffman: I saw God’s face in all the people in need at the free store who were so delighted to find some clothing or something they needed; the smiles on their faces, wanting to have a conversation.
Agatha Pokrzywinski: I saw the face of God in Holly. She never freaked out, even when she was stressed and she always got us where we needed to be, and have for us what we needed to have.
Keira Farkas: I saw God’s face in Yvonne, who even though had gone through such a traumatic and terrible year, kept a smile on her face and was so appreciative of our help and company.
Ali Kruger: I think Cynthia was someone I saw the face of God in. Also Yvonne, she’s been through struggles along with Cynthia and they were both very inspiring.
A group of us watched the recent film version of Les Mis, and at the end of the musical there is a line that we thought could be used to sum up what we experienced and learned this week. It says, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Love one another and look for God in those around you. ~ Mark