Brrr! The past couple of days have officially set the record for the lowest ever recorded temperature in the Village of Mundelein: -26℉! That’s hard to take even for those who have lived in Chicagoland all their lives and much more so for your pastor who spent almost a dozen years living in Florida!
I pray that none of you experienced anything worse than minor inconveniences and a touch of ‘cabin fever’ from being stuck inside your homes for a couple of days. I did need to venture out for a couple of reasons, including a check-in at the church to make sure the heat was functioning properly and that no other damage had been done by the extreme cold. Thankfully, everything at the church was in good order and the building was adequately heated. While I was out and about, I couldn’t help but notice how these extreme conditions were bringing out the best in people. Drivers were more inclined to yield to others at stop signs. Businesses that remained open had workers who seemed to smile wider and more genuinely than usual. There’s something about going through extreme situations with our neighbors that builds camaraderie and a generous spirit when “we’re all in this together.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this phenomenon, and it isn’t one exclusive to extreme cold. In fact, one can see similar behavior after hurricanes, floods, or other disasters. I’m inclined to believe that the early church experienced this bond as well after witnessing the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us like the feeling we have of a shared extreme experience. The challenge is: how do we continue to live the lessons we’ve learned from them after life returns to ‘normal?’
Empathy. Feeling with another. We’re discovering that it’s one of the most important life skills to learn and it’s made increasingly difficult by our lives that tend to be much more insular than those of just a few generations ago. Empathy keeps us appropriately humble and willing to help our neighbor when we can. It’s a skill we practice regularly when we come together for the shared experience of worship, when we listen to the joys and concerns that are shared, and even when we just sit around tables with one another in fellowship. There’s no ‘independent study’ that can truly teach empathy, just like there’s no such thing as ‘individual Christian.’ We learn to follow Jesus, the great empathizer, together or we do not learn it at all. May our shared experience grow our ability to empathize with our neighbors, no matter what the weather is like outside.