Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
“Chop Chop!, Chop Chop!,” the crowd of 500-600 people yelled as we all did The Wave in support of contestant Doug. It was the 67th Annual Woodsmen Show at Cherry Springs, PA near the end of 4 hours of competition. Professional Woodsmen from all over the country and continent had chopped, sawed, used cross cut saws, thrown axes, and used chain saws made from motorcycle and snowmobile engines, up to the final event, Tree Felling. Three men would each compete on their own tree in a timed event to see who could chop it down with an axe the fastest.
Invariably, after 4 hours of grueling labor and competition, some of the men are totally exhausted. Doug was done; he was worn out; he was spent. It was 85 degrees, and the sun bore down on him. But, the crowd was with him. And, with the announcer’s encouragement, we supported him both verbally and physically. We had empathy!
Consider 500-600 strangers, broken and sinful, with our sicknesses, our afflictions, our depression, our anxieties and disabilities – both physical and mental. For a few minutes, all of us wanted to run down and help Doug chop that tree down! We were one in a way our culture with its emphasis on individualism seldom seeks or approves.
All around me people said, “I want to help him,” or “I just wish I could go down and help him,” or “I feel so bad for him,” or “won’t somebody go help him.” And all the while, I also thought he needs help, “Lord help him!”
Doug could have stopped, he could have given up. As the announcer pointed out, he could have just picked up a chain saw and cut down the tree. But, he would have been disqualified. He was a professional; he would not stop until he completed the task. He did, and we all cheered and clapped and stood up.
For a little over 20 minutes something happened that we rarely seen, empathy and compassion by a large group of people. Not a mob jeering and cursing and rioting, but a group of very different people who were concerned, deeply concerned about the well-being of another human being.
And in all of this, God was at work. The Holy Spirit was active, as was Christ Jesus, indwelling all Christians in the crowd and striving with those that did not know him.
In common was our empathy. Empathy goes beyond sympathy; it is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others.
Our lives are always preaching something to us, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, joy, self-control, humility, gratitude, peace, or pride, selfishness, slander, distraction, anger or empathy. We are told to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), for it is in the company of pain we realize we are all in this together.