The Coconut Chronicles: The Death of Empathy

“Hi! My name’s Isabelle! Do you wanna be my friend?”

I heard this sentence offered up by each of the Coconuts countless times during our monster road trip last month to a plethora of different kids they met. And no matter the size, age, gender, religious background, family party persuasion, every one of the kids asked, cheerfully said, “Yes!” And off they would run together to play, laugh, whisper secrets, and become new best friends. I was continually amazed as I watched these kiddos without walls around their hearts and fences around their minds act as though they had all known each other since birth.

“Oh they’re so cute!” The adults would casually say to each other all the while sizing each other up, peeking over our own walls and carefully constructed fences that time and past hurts had deeply embedded. Then we would go about taking pictures, posting to social media, all the while making careful small talk about the weather. We certainly wouldn’t want to have a meaningful conversation. We might have to give something of ourselves.

A society of islands. That’s what we’ve become. Amazon, Wal-Mart, and food delivery services have replaced the need to leave the house for any reason. Technology has killed the days of long front porch talks. Now we communicate through text and emoticons. Modern day cave dwellers pecking out cliff drawings. If someone happens to ring the doorbell and it’s not UPS or FEDEX we peer warily through the blinds, annoyed that another human being might actually need something. I watched my kids play. Uninhibited. Full of joy. Wild abandon. But most of all, simply engaging in each other.

20160430_114224Over the course of our trip we spent four days in Skid Row in Los Angeles with a man whose desire to reach the lost supersedes the inconvenience of unwashed bodies and addictions that others run from. The Asuza  Lighthouse Mission is a beacon in the darkness there. Pastor Gabe Wang and his wife are sold out, taking the mantle of his mother who started the mission and carrying the burden for those people. You can learn more about them and the work they do here:  http://azusalighthousemission.org/

Skid Row is 7 miles from the lights of Hollywood but it might as well be 7,000 miles. Although progressives love to talk about helping the needy, most of the Hollywood crowd wouldn’t be caught dead near this place. A more important question however is, where is the church?  Where are the “called out ones?” The hands and feet of Jesus?

 

 

My kids wanted to help in every way possible. They wanted to talk to the people and serve them. I watched rough men and women soften and melt when a little hand pressed a sandwich into theirs and a little voice said, “Jesus loves you. I’m going to pray for you.” As we ministered there I watched the people respond to love and to connection with another human being. I’m not naïve enough to believe that if we would just put down our phones we could end homelessness, but I do believe we could make a difference. Many of the people out there just need to know that someone cares. I wonder where some of them would be today if someone would have noticed their depression, their hurt, and done something. I was reminded that these people were once someone’s baby girl or boy. Someone’s friend and someone’s neighbor.

Maybe I’m being unfair. After all, many out there on the streets are the hardest type of addicts filling a void with drugs and alcohol. But don’t we all have a void we’re filling? Whether someone is an alcoholic or a workaholic there’s a deeper issue being masked. Without Christ we are all headed for a Skid Row. Either in this life or the one to come. So back to my question. Where is the church? We don’t have to get on a plane to LA or even drive downtown to find someone to reach. There’s probably someone just a short walk or drive away. Perhaps it’s a neighbor or the checker at the grocery store that needs a touch from a real person. Aren’t we our brother’s keeper?

Technology is emotionally crippling us. Tiny little screens and selfie sticks, have taught us that we don’t really need each other and is simply furthering the selfishness that is today’s humanity. It is killing our empathy. Oh yeah, we’ll “share” that moving Twitter quote or Facebook post from a popular pastor or celebrity but won’t open our front door when our neighbor comes knocking with needs. Matthew 18:2-4 says, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t care how much scripture you know, where you preached your last conference, or how saved and sanctified you think you are, if you don’t have this down then you ain’t getting’ in. Because little children just love and believe. They don’t have an agenda. They just want to be friends. Our kids don’t need any more gadgets and neither do we. We just need to care about the person next to us.

Hi! My name’s Katherine. Do you wanna be my friend?

 

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