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Prayer, Compassion and Paying Attention

By: Margot Eyring, Coracle Spiritual Director

Margot is a regular volunteer at Our Daily Bread Breakfast Ministry in DC and Health and Wellness Professional. She writes on how Prayer, Compassion and Paying Attention have been helpful to her in her spiritual life.  

Serving breakfast at Our Daily Bread each weekday morning for my neighbors, many of whom live on the street, has become one of my most regular spiritual practices. Some friends who come to that breakfast challenge my abilities to be compassionate and kind. Out of necessity each morning I pray, “help us serve with kindness and compassion. Help us all see the face of Jesus in someone else. May we all know we are loved and able to be more peaceful people as a result of our time together.”

One of our dear neighbors was afflicted with schizophrenia not able to be managed very well. On his best days, he was kind, curious, friendly, and refined—in spite of the fact he hadn’t often showered. On his worst days, he became agitated and loud. For some reason, he was a guest that moved me to compassion.

I recently woke up to a Washington Post article and read my friend had died. We hadn’t seen him in a couple of months. It had happened before, but unfortunately, in this case, we learned he had been sleeping at a metro station in October and had been brutally beaten in the head by another person suffering from mental illness. He had been in a coma since then. He died from the wounds of that attack.

Throughout the day, I replayed his story and imagined how I might respond to such an attack. I imagined myself screaming “Jesus, send help” believing someone hearing my cry to Jesus would respond. Who would Jesus send? I hoped that person would be paying attention and respond with compassion and courage.

Later I headed to Costco to get groceries for myself and for Our Daily Bread. As I was loading groceries in my borrowed car, a middle-aged woman approached me. She told me her story and asked for help. Since I typically rely on public transportation and my feet to get around, I receive daily requests for money on the streets of my neighborhood. My policy is to be kind, invite folks to join us for breakfast at Our Daily Bread, but not to give money. Per my policy, I had decided not to give.

But, as the woman in that parking lot explained her story, she said, “I prayed Jesus would give me courage to ask for help.” I heard her asking Jesus for the same help I had asked for in my imagination earlier that day. I heard her underlying request for compassion and kindness for which I prayed to exhibit each morning. I paid attention to my physical response to her story and knew the Holy Spirit was asking me to respond in that moment.

While I may never know if the details of her story are factually accurate, I know it is true she needed help. God used her prayer (and my prayers) to move my heart to give. I continue to pray each day I see the face of Jesus in someone else. I trust Jesus will give me wisdom to respond appropriately with kindness and compassion to the cries for help we hear and see each day.