A compassionate pause
This time of year, I spend many Saturday mornings on the side of a soccer field. Our kids play on Davenport Parks and Rec teams, coached by dedicated parents who make up for any coaching deficits with a whole lot of love and care for our kids. I love those hours on the sidelines, in whatever weather, watching our kids take delight in something they love.
They are also learning so much out on that field – about themselves and what their bodies are capable of, about resilience and bouncing back after disappointment, about trusting other people and celebrating various abilities, and working as a team. But there’s this moment that happens during every game that teaches them, and all of us, a little lesson in compassion.
As happens in every game, someone gets a ball to the face or somehow crashes and is hurt enough that they can’t bounce back. Upon noticing the injured player, the referee blows the whistle and yells, “take a knee!” And every one of those players on both teams stops what they are doing and gets down on one knee. Everything stops until the player is ready to play, or hobbles off the field and a substitute comes out. They don’t keep playing while one of them is hurting.
It’s a simple thing, and a necessary one for the safety of the players – but I love this tiny act and what it teaches all of us about noticing and responding to suffering around us. It demonstrates the importance of stopping to make sure the other is okay, to not get so caught in our stuff that we ignore the hurting of others.
It’s not just in youth soccer either. Our faith invites us to pay attention to the people around us. When another person is hurting, how can we pause long enough to listen, to offer care and support, to show compassion? At the very least, we can stop our running and moving and busyness to demonstrate that other people matter to us, that they’ve been seen, and that they don’t have to struggle alone.
Perhaps this seems obvious – but many of us tend to rush past or ignore the hurt of others, or else we try to fix it or diminish it. But how might we “take a knee,” pause the hustle of our lives for the sake of others, people familiar to us, or perfect strangers? Maybe it’s taking the time for a phone call or to stop and visit someone. Perhaps it’s listening to a news story or reading a book about a challenging issue that is much easier to simply ignore. Perhaps it’s committing to keep showing up for people on a long journey of grief or illness or struggle. Maybe it’s pausing long enough to give voice to some hurt inside ourselves and to tend to our own needs.
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, he reminded us that loving our neighbor begins with an interruption in our days, not at all like those religious people who walked right past the wounded man on the side of the road. As people of faith, we can learn from Jesus’ story, and those kids on the soccer field, and take some time to “take a knee” in compassionate care for those around us who are hurting.