I'm reposting because what I wrote below is vague, shallow, and silly and really, who cares? Here's what really stopped me in my tracks in Texas:
We threw a giant outdoor festival for the survivors of Galveston. They've been through two storms that essentially wrecked the island, and we wanted to help and encourage them. Part of my job was to stand on a chair with a bullhorn and tell the incoming folks what they'd find inside. Three things made them look like they wanted to mow me down so they wouldn't miss out: Free haircuts (because who has money for that when you've lost everything?), free family portraits (these folks had lost all their pictures), and a small gold ticket for free groceries. I didn't know whether to cry or throw up, the need was so great, and what I could offer so small. All I could do was smile, try to convey some love and encouragement, and run through my mandatory shpiel as fast as possible.
A friend who was in the prayer tent told me about one woman he met who was hoping God might help her husband get off of drugs...but this was the THIRD thing on her list, after a safe place to live and a job.
I asked a fellow Vineyarder, the wife of our national director, "When does this stop breaking your heart?" "It doesn't," she said, hugging me. "That's the gift of compassion." Here's the thing, though: I don't have the gift of compassion. But what I saw there rammed through all my defenses and made me want to do whatever I could to help these folks. And sometimes the best you can do is run through your shpiel as fast as possible, and then pray for miracles as the crowds stream by.