Friday, February 20, 2015

What Mary Poppins Taught Me About Compassion

It’s easy for me to think compassion is just for the desperately third world poor.

Like our sweet Vivian that we sponsor in Uganda through an organization called Compassion.

But it’s revealed over and over to me that compassion opportunities are all around me,

here in this advanced Western culture,
here in my comfortable Midwestern town. 

And it is the poor in spirit that need my attention.

You know, the foul-mouthed and critical worker in my house.

The lonely old man sitting by himself at Chick-fil-A.

The harsh, severe cashier with shockingly mean things to say.

It’s them that need our compassion. 

When it would be so easy to reprimand them.

Ignore them.

Make them feel guilty for the ugly things they’ve said.

They are the ones that need compassion.

It’s harder than you think because it is always easier to sympathize with the one fetching water two miles from their hut every single day

than the man in your house telling dirty jokes 
and criticizing your choice in counter tops.

I’m embarrassed how much I let that bother me.

The scripture doesn’t say to love the loving. It says to love our enemies. It says that it doesn’t really even count to love the loving but to stretch ourselves to love those that seem the hardest to.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:32-36

It was easy to love the lonely old guy sitting by himself at Chick-fil-A,

yet it was him that came up to us,
not the other way around as it should’ve been, 

for compassion’s sake.

It was the severity of the words of the cashier at the pet store yesterday morning that shocked me into compassion.

I was too dumbfounded for judgement.

“Some people don’t belong in our society anymore,”

she said harshly pointing to the elderly woman with dementia who just walked out of the store.

Then she went on hatefully bashing the kids that will run through the store with little supervision later in the day because there was no school due to the cold.

She was unhappy they weren’t staffed well enough.

Unhappy with the cold.

Unhappy with life.

A big group of us went to see our town’s high school’s performance of “Mary Poppins” last night. A dear friend of McDaniel’s, Charlotte,  that we’ve known since she was 3 or 4 and watched sing in church when she still had the most adorable lisp, was Mary Poppins.

No, she didn’t PLAY Mary Poppins. 

She WAS Mary Poppins. 

Practically perfect in every way.

McDaniel and Charlotte, I mean, Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins had this great line in the show when one of the kids she was nanny to was passing harsh judgement on the “Bird Lady" selling bags of bread to feed the birds for tuppence.

The song, “Feed the Birds” in the movie 
used to always make me cry .

Mary Poppins said somewhat exasperatedly to the child,

“Oh, when will you look past what you see?!

It was an AHA! moment for me.

That is compassion.

Looking past what we see.

Looking past the set jaw of the crude worker and asking him about his weekend. 45 minutes later, I knew a lot more about him. He’s a loving father who restores old cars and collects coins.

He smiles at me now.

Looking past the hurriedness of our day to see the twinkle in the old man’s eyes sitting right by us, alone. Because he had some fantastic tales to tell. We just needed to invite him to tell us.

(More on him later).

Looking past the severe asymmetrical hair cut and multiple facial piercings of the hateful cashier at the pet store to hear that she was just overwhelmed, overworked and needed a break.

She thanked me for listening. 

It is hard work, this compassion.

 It goes against what we feel 
in our gut.

But when we extend it, 

something loosens inside our gut where all that 
harsh judgement 
and exasperation 
and dumbfoundedness once was.

And we are free to look past what we see.

And it’s never what we originally thought.

And it never seems unwelcome.


  1. In the mornings I say a prayer, asking God to help me see where I can be a blessing to someone that day, and to give me the courage to be that blessing.
    What you've described is exactly that. It's hard to do, and scary sometimes, but it is the best way to live.
    I had completely forgotten that scene from Mary Poppins.

    1. Christine,
      That’s a great daily prayer! Thanks for reading!

  2. I love this. It is so true. Compassion goes a long way. Just seeing people as people goes a long way. I always love your stories. I miss your face. We need to find a way to get together again.

    1. I miss your face too! You should’ve been with us at Mary Poppins--we make good musical dates! :)

  3. Karmen, the problem is that we are saved, redeemed, people being transformed from goats into sheep, and we expect everyone else to be the same. Unfortunately, these people are unsaved, un-redeemed goats. We shouldn't be surprised when, as goats, they act like goats. What we need to do when we encounter people like the worker at your house or the clerk at the store is to see Jesus standing behind them holding a big sign that reads, "Here's another person who needs Me."

    1. Brian,

      That is such an amazing image! Gave me chills! Thanks for the great insight (as always!).

  4. Oh Karmen!! I absolutely LOVE this. Yes to it ALL. And sadly, although I love Brian's comment, we must also be aware that many of those people we must tend to are the saved. Needing the body of our Living God to lift them up and carry them in their time of need. Christians aren't always pretty, amiright? :)

    Look PAST what you SEE!! LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    1. Chris,

      HOW ARE YOU?! Miss you and can’t wait to get together to discuss everything. :)

  5. Looking past what we see - perfectly stated by Mary Poppins! Jesus uses us to be His hands and feet, to love others in His name, to show kindness and compassion. The poor in spirit are everywhere if we just (preaching to myself here...) keep our eyes open. (PS: What a cute Mary Poppins she made and your beautiful daughter sure looks like her beautiful mama)

    1. Mindy,

      Thanks for your sweet words as always, my dear friend!

  6. Here by way of #1000 Speaks...

    Did you know that "Feed the Birds" was Walt Disney's personal favorite? It's in the extras of the DVD... I don't remember if it was one of the songwriters, or producers, but there's a clip of someone explaining how "Uncle" Walt expressed openly that he thought that song, right there, was the crux and summary statement of the movie.

  7. I didn’t know that! Thanks for sharing!


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