“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
There’s a new food truck in town. For the past several years I have begun my day by walking for exercise. I take several different routes but one of my favorites is around the lake at the city park. It was there I met Bubba the goose (for past readers he said to tell you hi), saw the power of integration in the goose families (they are doing fine), saw a man waging a war with people I could not see, and saw the new food truck in town. Let me explain.
We walkers see two kinds of exercisers. Some people come and go and some are regular as clockwork, they show up to walk each day. Like Forest Gump they start running—or walking—and just don’t stop. These folks become unofficial friends. We may not know each other’s names, what we do for a living or where the other person lives but for those few minutes at the park our lives intersect. And then, there’s the “food truck.”
She loves dogs and really animals. She walks her dogs every day in the park…and there are several. But what is interesting is that for a long time there was a cat walking with her. I mean a lot of people walk dogs, but a cat? The feline wasn’t on a leash but would just quietly walk behind her and the dogs. Talk about intriguing. So after a while I just had to talk with her. It turns out it wasn’t her cat at all. She met the cat one day while walking and it looked a little thin so she started dropping some dry cat food on the sidewalk and …well the cat had breakfast and hung around for dessert. There was a new “food truck” in town.
Sadly, one day our feline friend wasn’t there and I learned that he was hit by a car and didn’t survive. We mourned together…a lady I didn’t know losing a cat she didn’t own but we paused and grieved. But before long, there was another cat. I first saw him on the sidewalk about a block from the park and he was having breakfast on the sidewalk and I knew the “food truck” had been by. The relationship wasn’t as tight or as long but she had made a new friend by meeting a need.
Well, one day I was again walking in the park and ahead I saw several squirrels having breakfast. Yup, the “food truck” fed squirrels too. And then a few days later I saw several ducks gathered on the walking trail. Turns out ducks like cat food and they too were having breakfast. The “food truck” was a hit in the park and everyone was invited. But the funniest part was yet to happen.
So I am walking, and across the narrow lake I can see her walking her dog. Behind her is a group of ducks having breakfast. Then on my side of the lake there are three ducks and they are on the move. They are waddling as fast as their little legs would take them and they are quacking up a storm. Again, my duck is a little rusty but I believe they were saying, “Hey wait for us.” So huffing and puffing they waddle down a small peninsula and jump in. Paddling furiously they headed straight across the lake. Like kids chasing the ice cream truck they swam on. It was my last lap for the day but the last time I saw them they were on shore and hollering, “Wait, we’re coming.”
I don’t know my friend’s name but I do know her impact. Her acts of kindness to animals makes her a hit with them and with me. She just seems to care and really, besides this strange sort of fan club, gets no other reward. She just does what she thinks is the next right thing. I wonder how different our world would be if we did the same. Jesus did. The Book tells us that when He saw people—He didn’t see social class, He didn’t see color—He just saw people and He had compassion on them. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd or maybe like ducks needing breakfast.
Compassion is best defined as simply love in action. Its seeing a need and then doing what you can to meet that need. Imagine today taking the time to show kindness to someone having a difficult day. Imagine today taking the time to give someone a smile when they are only used to frowns. Imagine today doing simply the next right thing—without reward, without expectation—simply because it is the right thing to do. It might just be amazing. It might just look crazy…like a cat following a lady walking her dog. It might just be game changing.
In a few minutes, I’m going to do my walking thing. I don’t have any cat food. In fact my shorts don’t even have pockets but I can pack an intentional smile for someone who needs one. I can do that. Sometimes Jesus gave out free lunches to crowds—big crowds. Sometimes He healed broken bodies and spirits. But something that I think we overlook is that He probably smiled…a lot. Imagine His joy as He shared and showed compassion—love in action. Like the cat, like the ducks following the “food truck” people followed Him. Not just for the bread, though some did, but because around Him they felt safe. They felt loved. They found a place where they could rest from the craziness of life. We can too. He’s got this.