Monday, March 2, 2009

Making Room For Compassion and Why I Did It

I’ve met a new general market novelist friend who sent me some thoughts on compassion, then didn’t think they were “Mother Theresa” worthy. I laughed because all of us holding this forum this week have confessed to our flaws regarding compassion. Different aspects factor into how we love others such as our temperament, how we spend our money, etc. But before I post some of author Kaya McLaren’s “confession”, I’d like to confess that my husband picks at me for my “lack of compassion.” Truthfully, we both show compassion differently. He’s a human golden retriever, so of course he’s kissing faces and drawing children into his lap. But God uses each of us differently, so here’s my take on compassion.

I’m an organizer. When there’s a problem, my cogs start turning, mentally mapping out a solution. I start at the top, piecing together the connecting cogs, the people attached to the cogs, etc. When the pro life movement was most visible, adoption seemed a good idea. I directed a children’s choir. I taught the kids a song by Amy Grant, “For the Children of the World.”

My hubby was on the board of Bethany Christian Services so I asked if he would invite in the Bethany folks with their materials on a Sunday morning at the big church where we were on staff. Following a slide presentation and this amazing choir song, the Bethany services lady gave a talk. There was another table, too, of children in foreign countries who needed sponsors. At the end of the service, there were many sponsors signed up that day. But there was also an amazing adoption story that took place.

Maybe I don’t come across as compassionate—my husband will tell you that I don’t care how I come across. Hm. I’m who I am and God uses me in different ways. He doesn’t see any of us as “unusable” because we don’t fit into some mold. We’re fitted perfectly for his greater purposes.

If you look to the side of this blog and scroll down, there’s also a great way to give to local kids and moms with AIDS called the Secret Angels Project. Again, that came out of some very non-emotional thinking and organization. I don’t want to give the impression that love has to be a “feeling.” It’s almost always an act, what Christ calls our “reasonable service.”

Here are some thoughts from general market novelist Kaya McLaren who chatted with me “off-the-record.” Amazing, because it’s such an unguarded chat:

PATTY: Why did you decide that you shouldn’t do this chat?

KAYA: I sponsor and write to three kids in Children International, but I don't want to brag about that. It's such a small thing. The truth is that I don't do as much as I could. I spend $300/month to support my horse when I could support charities.

PATTY: I find myself justifying my “little luxuries” and then feeling bad about them.

KAYA: I have a house that's big enough to take in a lot of homeless people, but I don't take them in. I drive an SUV that emits pollution. At the end of the day, I hope the good I did outweighed the expense of my existence on the planet, but I fear that at the end of the day, I'm just another American-- 5% of the world's population consuming 20% of its resources. And at the end of the day, I'm tired from teaching all day. I make dinner, write, and go to bed. I'm no Mother Theresa.

PATTY: You teach children. Why do you think your compassion is inadequate?

KAYA: I get confronted with how that isn't enough. Last Christmas, two more of my former students from the Apache Reservation took their own lives. Things like that make me feel so small, like my love, my prayers, and even my actions are so small in this big world with all its suffering. I don't know what the answer is. I just have to keep believing that my thoughts and my prayers do make a difference in this world, even if it isn't always enough. Maybe it's not mine to judge. My Gram often says, "Everything is in divine order," and I wonder about that.

PATTY: What else do you wonder about?

KAYA: Do we come to earth to experience polarity and all the things we couldn't experience in the plane from where our souls came? Does the imperfection here serve a divine purpose in that way? I mean, how many of us have been catapulted through an unpleasant experience into whatever it is we were born to do? Even if the all imperfections of the world serves a divine purpose, it doesn't make it easier for me or even possible to love those imperfections, and I sure don't think it lets me off the hook with regard to doing my best to make the world better.

PATTY: What do you see as the one thing that you can do to set the wobbliness of the world back in order?

KAYA: I've been thinking about forgiveness on so many levels lately, and how it truly creates a new beginning, a second chance. Forgiveness makes room for love and miracles. If God is love, we've got to make room for love. We've got to go in with forgiveness and clean house on a regular basis.

PATTY: Yes, I think that I tend to do that before I go to sleep. I’m so afraid I’ll go to bed with unforgiveness taking up residence in my heart. Then I’ll wake up ugly and turning into the very thing I hate. It’s a hard practice to see the ugliness in me and confess that to God.

KAYA: There is no room for love where there is resentment, or judgment, or anger. I know that in order to love the world better, I have to forgive all the ways the world seems wrong to me. I have to forgive people who are unkind or even violent with children.

PATTY: That’s been the hardest part of ministry life. As a pastor’s wife, I see child abuse, spousal abuse, teen abuse all up close.And then I’m not supposed to say anything because pastor’s wives are the church mutes.

KAYA: I have to forgive people who are unkind or violent with animals. I have to forgive people who pollute. I have to forgive people whose greed causes the suffering of so many. I have to forgive people who judge or harm others in the name of God.

PATTY: But they’re blind to it, seemingly. They see their harsh words as “corrective” but they are seemingly “uncorrectable.”

KAYA: If I get nothing else from (Jesus’) His life, from His teachings, I want to get that. I want to get it on deeper and deeper levels every day.

PATTY: Kaya, I think that this is the perfect way to start out a week where we’re talking about compassion and why we choose to love. If anyone is having trouble finding, in small ways, an act of love to pass on, perhaps the first thing they need to do is search the heart for trace elements that are more conducive to love. I think you’ve hit on the starting point and that is forgiveness. You’re so right.

And thanks for the offline chat. Kaya McLaren is writes lit fiction like Church of the Dog and her upcoming novel On the Divinity of Second Chances. I can't wait to read it.

The rest of the week, four more author friends are each going to share a personal journey to compassion. Some have made some simple changes to include others in their life while others have made drastic change. The point being that what the world needs now is love.

Tomorrow novelist Gail Martin shares a personal story of how one small thing led to another.

Your feedback might help you win some love from our guest authors this week who will contribute a book each in Saturday’s book give-away. What shall we call it? Ah—Words to Go’s Feel the Love Book Give!