On Saturday our family spent a little time with the Cattenheads. The children watched a television show where a sociologist put on a compassion experiment. The set it up so that a man (an actor) bumps into the subject heading into testing room and is very rude to him or her. When the subject looks through the two-way glass the person who mistreated him or her is sitting there waiting for the subject to select the hotness level of the salsa the actor will have to eat.
The scenario was kept the same for each of the subjects, with the exception being how they were hosted by the scientist once they entered the room. For several, the scientist was very businesslike - no warm greeting, just instructions, and their opportunity to choose the salsa. In those cases, the subjects tended to choose the hotter salsas. For others, the scientist smiled as they entered, was friendly, offered a glass of water, and they tended toward the milder salsas. The conclusion was that compassion is like a common cold - it can be caught.
It may be that meanness and prejudice can be, too. Pharaoh's unsubstantiated claim that the Hebrews' population growth would lead to their joining forces with enemies was sold to the Egyptians. Rather than start with the premise that they could make loyal Egyptians out of the Hebrews, in his fear, pharaoh began with the assumption that they'd be bad for Egypt and should be mistreated into submission. The story includes words such as dread, ruthless, and bitter (Exodus 1:8-2:10).
Contrast that impulse with pharaoh's daughter who had compassion for the crying Egyptian baby and made a way for him to survive against her father's edict. Contrast it with these powerful stories coming out of Houston of people risking their lives in order to bring complete strangers to safety. The Texans may be experiencing dread from the rising waters, but they are also experiencing the gift of a community coming together by showing compassion to one another. We have seen that in the compassion shown in our area in the last years' flooding and hurricane.
There is much to celebrate in that (and plenty more to pray for in Texas), but it's also worth celebrating when compassion and kindness and warmth and community is shown in more typical circumstances. We don't need a natural disaster to show us how to treat one another. We have Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the opportunity to spread kindness every day.
What will people catch from you today?