What Breaks Your Heart?

I remember being a kid and changing the channel when I saw UNICEF commercials come on TV. I may not have fully realized it at the time, but I think on some level, I knew I was more fortunate than the kids in the videos. Maybe I felt I couldn’t help them. Maybe it was guilt that I felt. Maybe I just didn’t like any commercials. I don’t remember my exact thoughts. I only remember changing the channel.

I wasn’t born into a wealthy family and they aren’t perfect either, but I never had to worry about where I would get my next meal. The house I grew up in wasn’t huge, but it was always a safe place, where the water always ran and the lights always turned on. The family car wasn’t brand new, but it got us where we needed to go. When I was a kid, I was able to be a kid. Now that I am a father of three, I’ve been able to do the same for my children.

Growing Up

I didn’t see the hardships that others endured when I was young, even though I may have been close in proximity. In elementary school I had no idea that some of my classmates didn’t eat dinner the night before. No one told me that families with kids in my city battled homelessness. As I grew older I began to understand not everyone had the same upbringing as me. I started to become more aware of the suffering around me.  I learned that not everywhere is like America and I began to understand the meaning of true hardships and terms like “developing nation.” The blessing of being born into a loving, middle-class family in the US became more apparent as I matured.

Now that I’m an adult I’ve met people that have suffered a great deal. Some were born in America and some weren’t. I’ve heard personal stories from people whose difficulties have made me weep just by listening. I’ve experienced some tough times myself, but they are insignificant compared to the sufferings others have faced. Through that discovery, a sharper sense of compassion for others has developed in me.  What I didn’t understand and couldn’t see as child, now breaks my heart.

No Longer Blind

When I grow my faith, I become more others centered. I experienced this vividly on my second trip to Romania.  I visited the same small villages 12 months before, but I was able to see the needs of children more clearly a year later. Our team distributed shoes to the elementary-aged kids in the towns where we stayed. Since the sneakers were purchased in the US we had to measure and fit the children with the proper sizes. It wasn’t until I saw the poor conditions of the sandals the kids were wearing that I fully understood their need for proper footwear.

God opens the eyes of the blind, not just in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense too. The moment I accepted Christ, God gifted me a brand new heart. My new heart breaks easily for the sufferings of others. When I serve others, their hardships became more obvious to me. If the sufferings of others are visible, then I feel compassion for them.

God has a way of always completing the circle for me. When it comes to compassion for others it goes: first, I draw close to Him and then He opens my eyes. Then, I feel compassion and He leads me to do something about it. In doing, I’m draw closer to Him once again.

What Breaks Your Heart?