Sunday, August 03, 2003

Compassionate Leadership

I don't know what he was thinking at the time. He may have been depressed, or anxious, or frustrated, or angry! I don't know what he was thinking. Nevertheless, there he was, perched on the edge of the cliff of eternity, with only a blue plastic tube full of oxygen keeping him from plummeting into the chasm below. His mother sat quietly at his side gently touching his limp hand or occasionally running her fingers over his young but weathered face. As she looked at the deep purple bruise woven around his neck her eyes questioned, "Why is he here? What happened? Perhaps something inappropriate was said at the wrong time." Perhaps. "Or maybe something appropriate was not said at the right time?" Maybe. Without saying a word she asked , "Am I the only one who loves my boy?"

"When Jesus ... saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."(The Gospel according to St. Mark, chapter 6, verse 34)

In "a large crowd" there are a lot of people, who may have done a lot of unseemly things. And Jesus knew everything each one of them was guilty of. And he reacted, not with frustration, not with anger, not with inappropriate language, but with corrective compassion.

The soldiers in today's Army are dealing with a lot of things soldiers of the past didn't have to deal with ... drugs ... divorce ... depression. They don't need us to accept or condone what they are doing. They don't need us to scream at them like little children, or the family dog. And they don't need us run our fingers through what's left of their hair and give then a back massage and tell them that everything is alright, when it is not. They need us to have compassion on them and to teach them "many things." That's called leadership and it's our duty.