Patricia Holbrook

Sympathy – two hearts tugging at one load

Our Daily Bread is a well-known ministry established in 1938 by Dr. M.R. DeHaan as a radio program called Detroit Bible Class. Over the years, it has expanded to offer various resources to millions of people around the globe, including podcasts, publishing, topic-based studies, as well as their well-known daily devotionals.

I was browsing through some of my writing resources when I came across a story used in one of Our Daily Bread’s devotionals which powerfully illustrated a sentiment that has captured my heart in the last couple of days: the importance and power of sympathy.

The devotional told the story of a man who put a sign on his yard, which read: “Puppies for Sale.” Several people came by to see the puppies, and among them, there was a young boy who wanted to purchase a pup but only had $2.50. When the man told him that the dogs cost $25, the young boy felt deeply disappointed. He asked if he could still see the puppies. The man quickly agreed, saying, “Of course. Maybe we can work something out.”

The young boy’s eyes beamed with joy as he watched the five little balls of fur playing around. After a while, he lifted his eyes to the gentlemen, saying: “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said. “Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.” “Well, that’s the puppy I want,” the boy said. “Could I pay for her a little at a time?”

The man was surprised, saying “But she’ll always have a limp!” The young boy looked down. He then bravely pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk well either. I guess she’ll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.”

The man’s heart was moved. He picked up the puppy and gave it to the boy. “Here, take her. I know you’ll give her a good home. And just forget about the money.”

I confess that the story touched my heart, especially this week, as I’ve understood the importance of sympathy on something I’ve never experienced before.

This past Tuesday, we have had to make the difficult decision to put our 10-year-old miniature Schnauzer to sleep. Jingles had been with our family since she was 8 weeks old and our daughters were only 6 and 2. She spent most of her days cuddling with one of us and has brought us immense joy.

I had never raised a dog from the beginning to the end of its life. She had been healthy until last Friday, when a sudden illness struck, making our beloved Jingle Bells quickly decline.

Through the years, I have heard the sadness in people’s voice as they said that their dogs had died. I have read posts on Facebook and even clicked on the sad face Emoji to show my sympathy. But truth is, I have to say, that until this week, I did not understand why losing a pet can be so difficult. Just as I truly did not understand how devastating it can be to lose a loved one until my brother-in-law died in a plane crash almost seven years ago. Just as I really did not grasp the fear that grabs one’s heart when a doctor announces a cancer diagnosis until it became reality to me on Feb. 8, 2012.

In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul, meditating on the comfort that he found in God while going through trials, spoke of one of the greatest purposes that arise from adversity: God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

The little boy in the story wanted to extend the unconditional love, understanding and comfort that he had received to the crippled puppy. He understood the hardships the dog had to face on a personal level. He understood a lesson that I too have grasped through each trial I face: There is a depth of sympathy that can only be reached when we walk in someone else’s shoes.

May God heighten our sensitivity so we may always offer comfort to the hurting, in spite of the fact that we may not fully understand the depth of their pain. That’s the mark of a truly compassionate heart.

“Sympathy is two hearts tugging at one load.” — Charles Henry Parkhurst

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