The world is under the grip of a tiny virus we now know as COVID-19. The Coronavirus debuted towards the end of 2019 has now engulfed the globe. While this is not the first pandemic to visit humankind, it nonetheless seems to be the most devastating and dangerous virus to date.
Within a short space of time, and as it spreads, it caused pandemonium to individuals, rendering governments to lockdown normal activities, businesses ceased economic transactions and churches shut their doors – forcing all and sundry to look at new and different ways of connecting and remaining relevant to the needs of communities each serve.
To date, most governments are spending huge sums of money to bring relief and mitigate the adverse impact this situation brought on the people, especially those who already were poor and struggling in their everyday lives. It is likely that the aftermath of this pandemic is going to be costly both in economic and social terms.
At the heart of this, I see a great test to the human spirit – surviving no matter what. What is it going to take to pull through against the odds? What are we doing now and or going to do to help those who are desperate and in dire need? Are our lives going to go on as normal beyond the pandemic? What lessons would be learnt out of this experience?
As I was reflecting and pondering on some of these questions and my wild thoughts, one word kept flashing incessantly in my mind – compassion! I reckon that if ever there was to be one thing that we can do for each other, especially those who do have the means, is to be compassionate and generous in spirit.
I once heard someone say, “Compassion is not a snob going slumming.” Real compassion is taking a trip into a world of brokenness, it is feeling the broken heart and soul-crushed at the deeper levels of human gut. It is interesting to note that in the Greek language, the word compassion has to do with the internal movement of the bowels, lungs and kidneys. In other words, to be a compassionate person is to be moved in the inward parts.
True compassion usually calls for a willingness to humbly spend oneself in the obscurity on behalf of unknowns. This axiom came to light and best exemplified when at the beginning of the lockdown in my country, a young Ph.D. student in our church community, mobilised resources in order to run a shelter for the homeless.
A couple of years ago, Shalene Selkirk, founded, a non-profit organisation dedicated to feeding and clothing the homeless in the streets of Johannesburg. With no experience in running the shelter operation, but armed with the heart of compassion, she found a foundation that was willing to fund the shelter during the lockdown period. But the big hurdle was finding a place to house the homeless, despite the government’s plea to school governing bodies and churches to assist. She tried every avenue and doors seemed to be closed.
Finally, she approached the leadership of our church with a compelling proposal to have the church open its doors for the homeless while ironically its doors were closed for its members, Her proposal was received favourably and a partnership in compassion was forged and 40 homeless men were housed at the church and looked after well as the virus was spreading in the community and ravaging the world.
I do want to conclude by saying: parceling out this kind of compassion will illicit no whistle or loud applause. In fact, the best acts of compassion will often never be known by the crowds, nor draw sums of money. Normally, these acts of mercy and compassion are done in obscurity with no personal gain. The best way to make a difference during this COVID-19 season is to adopt a heart of compassion and do your best in serving humanity in need.
By Ndaba Mazabane, Associate Pastor at Rosebank Union Church, Johannesburg, South Africa and Chair of the Cinnamon Network SA Advisory Council.
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