We had a guest minister at church a few months ago who delivered a wonderful sermon that has inspired this post. Reverend Steve Cordry has visited our church a few times while we are without a minister. Every time he visits we love his sermon. Rev. Cordry is the co-founder of Shine Spiritual Center in Massachusetts.
On the particular Sunday I am thinking of Rev. Cordry started with a story. I will try to relate this story quickly (and assuredly not so well).
Imagine a scene of a pasture full of wild horses. One horse has just had a baby. She has stood back up and is waiting for the baby to stand and take its first steps. The baby is struggling, but cannot stand. The mother begins to nudge it, neigh, and pace. She is getting anxious. If a baby horse cannot walk then it cannot survive. Other mares crowd around and begin to encourage the foal to get up, but still it cannot get up. Suddenly one of the large males charges, and stomps the baby, killing it.
I will give you a moment to get over the shock… go ahead….
I hope I didn’t lose any of you. I promise this gets better.
Rev. Cordry then asked us who did the right thing. Was it the females or the male? His answer… both. There are two kinds of compassion, one more tender and often used by women, the other is tougher and more often used by men.
You are probably wondering what in the world this has to do with this blog, but I am getting there. The whole time this sermon was going on I was thinking about Dan’s parents. This concept of the duality of compassion is perfectly demonstrated by the way he was raised and it shows, as Rev. Cordry discussed, the need for both kinds of compassion in the world.
You all probably have a pretty good idea of what type of person Dan is by now. The most prominent aspect of his personality is his total inability to ask others for help. That can be a pain sometimes, but it is really what got him to were he is today instead of in a wheelchair as doctors predicted. And he owes this attitude almost entirely to his parents.
Dan’s parents were told that he would never walk. Well, obviously they didn’t just say, “OK,” and let it go. They said, “Nope, he can walk.” And he did. And he fell. A lot. Luckily for Dan his parents were not squeamish. His father was an EMT and his mother was raised on a farm. They moved on and tried again and again. And you know what they did when Dan fell and busted his head open? Well, they took him to the ER for stitches. BUT, when he fell and got a bruise or a scrape they told him to get up. And he got up.
Dan witnessed people his whole life giving his father this “look.” I know that look. I experience this look all the time. Once Dan fell in the entry of a restaurant and I stepped over him and kept walking. Boy, did people look at me like I am the devil.
His mother, though strong, is also very nurturing. So, don’t get the wrong impression; he got a lot of love and comfort. His dad has a soft side too, but it is hidden well. He provided the tough love. He made Dan walk even when he was tired and didn’t think he could do it. They took him to different therapies, including horseback riding, to get him moving. Still, when they took a trip to Disney when Dan was small, his dad carried him on his shoulders all day rather than make him tough it out or ride in a wheelchair.
My favorite story of his love for Dan is one where that tough love was turned around and used to help his 10-year-old son tell the doctors how things were going down. His family had a lake house where they spent the summers and Dan was always in the water, even learning to ski. This particular summer he was due to have surgery on both legs that would require him to be wheelchair bound (the only period of his life he allowed that to happen) and wear full leg casts all summer. Dan, outspoken even as a child, told the doctor he would go in the water anyway so he shouldn’t put casts on him. Well, they had to use casts or the surgery would be useless, but they knew how stubborn this kid was. The solution? Dan’s dad told the doctors to put on the casts, saw then in half down the sides and put them back on using velcro. It worked perfectly. He took them off to swim and wore them on dry land.
I hope that this inspires you readers in your own lives to use tough compassion when it is needed. I often think that our future generations are not getting enough of it. Looking at Dan, I can tell you that you can raise no better person than the person he ended up being so I thank God daily that his parents were able to see the value of two kinds of compassion.