Perhaps you remember these words from Nelson Mandela: “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
—Nelson Mandela in a Message at Healing & Reconciliation Service, December, 2000
During Eastertide I’ve been relaxing with The Easter Story Book published by Floris Books. It’s a collection of legends and folktales which reflect the season around Easter and early summer. I treasure good literature, and this collection has some keepers. One of them, called “Robin Redbreast” by Selma Lagerlof, is similar to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories; you probably remember these classics which describe in fanciful ways how the leopard got her spots, the original purpose of the elephant’s trunk, etc.
Yesterday I read to my spouse “Robin Redbreast,” which tells that when the Lord made the little gray bird named Redbreast there wasn’t but one speck of the desired rosy color on her neck and breast. Generation upon generation of these small gray birds tried in earnest to “earn” the color through feats of valor, commitment, and resourcefulness but didn’t succeed. This changed, though, when one robin, who upon seeing the Christ suffering on Calvary, pulled a thorn from his brow in an effort to care for this Other’s pain. As a drop of blood fell on the bird, spreading and permanently coloring its feathers, the Christ whispers to her, “Because of your compassion, you have won all that your kind have been striving after, even since the world was created.”
I wonder if the coloring of our own lives might truly be that simple. What part of yourself have you “othered,” which you may need to offer some compassion toward rather than judgment? To whom in your family circle or to which group of “othered” people in our world today might you be able to offer some genuine tenderness toward…“not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”?
May the colors of Eastertide be yours. May every robin you spy this week bless you with the courage to reach out with compassion.