The river of life never stops and the cycles of living move in never-ending circles. The sparrows keep chirping in the nearby trees while a casket is being lowered into the ground. Life itself stops for no one, but we can. A famous, ancient story tells us about stopping.
A man had been robbed and beaten. He was left in a ditch along the roadside to let nature takes its course. The story in the gospel of Luke 10 says that he was half-dead. He needed help from someone. Jesus says that two people of rank noticed the man and walked on. But a Samaritan, “as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him,” he had empathy for him.
The Samaritan, who would have been recognized in the story as a person who knew rejection, could have been embittered and resentful. He could have been apathetic and removed because he knew rejection, loss, and pain at the hands of the people he lived around. But instead of hardness, he had empathy. He could recognize himself in the half-dead man. I bet he could tell a story of how he came to have such compassion. I wonder who had helped him somewhere in his past. Anyone who has active compassion is offering what someone gave to them at a time of need. That is where empathy comes from.
He stopped while life went on. He wasn’t just watching life; he was participating in living. He had the power through compassion to stop.
We can do the same. We can stop and attend to the child’s tears instead of ignoring them. We can listen to the heart’s struggle of the spouse or the friend. We can know that the person across the street has suffered a wound, and knock on the door.
Life doesn’t stop. But we can.