Rev. Dr. Chuck Moffett
On Monday, September 11, there were a variety of gatherings being held across our nation. For some it was a time of somber remembrance of those who died in NYC, Washington D.C., and Pittsburgh on the occasion of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. There were gatherings for giving honor and thanks for the first responders who gave of their time, caring, skill—and yes, even their lives—to rescue the victims of the attack. On another occasion, I know of one gathering in Washington state which celebrated the 28th birthday of one particular young lady, my oldest granddaughter, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard. So, there were remembrances of death, heroism and birth.
Locally, there were “farewell” parties as Hurricane Irma left our communities. Yes, the winds, rain, power outages and storm surges were ending but the devastation left behind was not over and will not be for a very long time. In the wake of Irma was death, destruction and despair. Those realities are not wiped away by holding a “farewell party.”
Perhaps what Irma and Harvey can leave in their wake for all of us—whether the spared or the spoiled—is the lesson that there is a vital difference between “sympathy” and “empathy.” SYMPATHY says a casual, “Oh, I am so sorry for you. I realize that, but for the grace of God, I would be in your shoes. So I wish you well.”
EMPATHY says, “By the grace of God I am here to be with you and walk with you in your hurt and hopelessness. I am here to be part of your healing for however long it takes.”
My prayer for me, and for each one of us, is that we may look deep into our soul and be intentional in demonstrating empathy, not merely sympathy—not just in the wake of Irma, but in all of life’s bitter storms.