This is another post from May that I am migrating from a previous site to this one. Enjoy.
“Compassion is not bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.” Henri Nouwen
The above quote lies at the heart of how we must respond to loss. We take up residence and build our home among the loss, as Nouwen did by leaving the confines of academia and going to live in relationship alongside individuals with developmental disabilities. In the US alone, there are tens of thousands of children whose stories are full of the loss that Summer knew, that she remembers, that continues to influence her development and journey. There are families struggling to understand the loss of expectation, the loss of future, and the loss of hope in the midst of an unexpected diagnosis. Sure, loss may not be the WHOLE story, but it certainly is a part that we as believers, as individuals dealing with our own loss(es), must learn to grapple with. So what do we do in response to these losses?
We could minimize it. We could dismiss it. Both options allow us to move forward and pretend that all is perfectly well. Equally as problematic is the tendency, particularly in the American Christian culture is to become a tourist in the loss of others. We visit. We take five days to treat foster youth like royalty, but then go about our lives for the other 360 days of the year. The individuals labeled with disabilities who have been marginalized, disrespected, abused, and mistreated experience loss. Yet, the loss-tourist spends one “night to remember” with these individuals then goes about their own life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to volunteer work or short-term mission work. Yet, that work, that opportunity, can either provide the self-satisfaction the loss-tourist experiences full of memories and mementos of another place. Or, that work can create the impetus to build home among the loss.