Monday, November 5, 2007

Upon Closer Examination

My son was once blessed with an art teacher quite crafty in her approach to freeing up the young creative mind. She asked my son to go out into the school yard and find an object, preferably something that would not matter to him. He picked up a chunk of concrete and brought it back. She instructed him to then take his drawing stick of charcoal and tie it to a long stick. Then he had to draw the object—from the tip of that long stick. He had to draw it numerous times until he began to really see the object, see all of its imperfections, the way light fell across it, and how it cast a shadow. He was energized by the exercise and told me, “I didn’t realize how much I could care about something until I had really seen it up close, appreciating it for the space it takes up and the shadows it casts.”

I am reminded through my boy’s art exercise that compassion for others is not likely to come to me. Compassion kicks in when I reach into life and draw back a chunk of it examining where I can serve another. Do you remember when you first heard that as a new believer you were supposed to impact your world? I was a teen and was very engaged in the same rhetoric that I heard from church leadership. But engaging others through service did not make sense to me until I participated in a service project. As much as I gave lip service to compassion, true love for others stayed locked away until I began the practice of examining other lives. Like the art that was hidden in my son’s chunk of concrete, love is fanned into flame when it becomes active. As I wonder how many students had walked past Jared’s chunk of concrete without knowing it as he had known it, I think about the sea of humanity that floats past like flotsam. What will I do with it?