BLESSING AND A CURSE
One of my husband and I’s favorite detective shows is “Monk.” Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective from San Francisco who has an obsessive-compulsive disorder he uses to solve murder cases. He calls his disorder “a blessing and a curse.” His acute sense of discernment cannot be switched off. Ever. He lives with it day and night. Without it, however, he would not have the ability to do extraordinary things.
I confess that I have felt a similar feeling to Mr. Monk in terms of my compassion to the point that it has, at times, felt like both a blessing and a curse. My compassion spigot flows freely, especially when it comes to the plight of animals. I can’t watch those tear-jerking commercials of animals behind cages looking at me with sad eyes. I can’t deal with natural disasters that show abandoned and stranded animals on rooftops and cars. Images get burned into my mind and haunt me. Don’t even get me started on abused animals . . . of any sort. I seriously can’t take it. The overload of compassion brings me heartache and nightmares.
When I first started getting mail from animal organizations, I would open every piece. Oftentimes I found myself crying over a sad story or a horrific photo. My husband took notice and starting throwing away mail that had animal abuse photos on the front before I could see them. When he confessed, I was secretly glad. His efforts were short-lived and after years of donations here and there, my name is out there. I must be on every animal support and rescue organization there is – dogs, cats, big cats, donkeys, horses, elephants, wolves, whales, turtles, chickens, pigs, and sharks. Yes, even sharks. It’s not limited to just the animals themselves either but also about locations and events where animals are involved – shelters, reserves, Indian reservations, sanctuaries, ranches, parks, zoos, roadside shows, traveling shows, festivals. I’m sure there are more. Oh, and don’t limit it to America! Africa, India, Korea, Turkey, and Ecuador have animals in need, too. If the truth be known, I would probably give to almost every organization if I could but of course, that’s not possible. I like to eat! Ministry efforts tug at my heartstrings, too. I donate to a diverse panel of ministries all across the globe reinforcing the concept of blessing begets blessing.
For several years, my brother-in-law was a member of Ducks Unlimited. I knew he enjoyed duck hunting with business partners from time to time and I was thankful he didn’t hunt anything more than ducks. Once when I was in my sister and brother-in-law’s home for a family event, the subject of Ducks Unlimited cropped up when I saw a new colorful wooden duck displayed on their mantle. I praised their open support of God’s beautifully designed fowl. My sister began to laugh and informed me of my misinterpretation of her husband’s membership. I was rudely awakened that the organization was not only for the conservation of habitats for waterfowl, specifically ducks, but it was for the intended purpose of hunting them! Horrors! How could I have been so deceived? I was the laughing stock of the evening (and now of you)! My brother-in-law is no longer a member of this organization nor has he continued to pursue his interest in hunting. Not because of me, mind you, but because his interest has waned over the years. Plus, his business no longer entertains guests in this manner.
One day while driving home, I asked the Lord why He gave me so much compassion. I didn’t get a clear answer but I did get an idea. I needed an outlet for my compassion. I became energized thinking about what I could do. I wanted it to be something in which the community would benefit. I eventually settled on two areas of interest: a hospice volunteer and a pet therapist. I connected with a local hospital and became a direct patient hospice volunteer visiting with families and making a few long-term friends along the way. I remained a hospice volunteer for eleven years. Two of my dogs, Frezno and Skippy, and I became certified pet therapy teams visiting hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities until they both passed away. I was able to give love and joy to the community and it was returned right back to me.
Now that I am no longer a hospice volunteer or a pet therapist, I have expanded my territory of compassion beyond the community. I now tend to find more satisfaction through local and international mission work. I’ve become particularly fond of international mission trips where there seems to be an overabundance of opportunity to show compassion through the love of God. I am rewarded with the hope that is left behind. Of course, salvation is the ultimate reward but oftentimes it is a smile, a thank you, or a brief conversation. I’ve been to several countries on different continents in the name of Jesus offering a meal, assisting in surgery, playing the keyboard, teaching biblical truths, baking cookies, and more.
I still struggle with my compassion at times but I have gained more wisdom over the years. I doubt I will ever stop crying at heartbreaking pictures and sad stories but I no longer open every piece of mail. If I see money inside an envelope, however, I take the money out and drop it into a jar labeled “Dogs.” Sometimes the dog bank makes a nickel or three cents; other days, a dollar, even two. My husband and I laugh at the money the dogs have pulled in. They will be visiting the pet store soon.
Like Mr. Monk, capitalizing upon my “blessing and curse” of compassion has turned it into something useful, something positive, something that benefits the good of humanity. But more than anything, it glorifies God. And that is of utmost importance to me.
Recently I decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. Perfect, huh? Actually, it is. The child I picked is older and might never get another sponsor. I’ve loved getting to know this Peruvian teenager, her family, and her community. The benefits of my sponsorship are undeniable.
I guess when you really think about it, my gift of compassion cannot be considered a curse. God has given it purpose and for that I am thankful. He’s the One Who gave me the gift in the first place! After all, “The Lord of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:9).