One of the things that helps me keep my ‘heart of compassion’ open to those around me who are suffering and in need—is to think about what it would be like for me to experience what they are experiencing, to be in their shoes, to experience life from their perspective—to ‘trade places’ with them.  What if I lived where they lived—far from clinics and hospitals and doctors and pharmacies?  What if I had no money for care?  What if I had no one to help me?  Nowhere to turn.  What if that was my son or daughter who needed help?  What if that was my mom or brother or sister who was so in need?  How would I want others to respond?  What would I want others to do for me?  How would I want others to treat me or care for me?

In the story of the Good Samaritan, at one point, after the wounds were bandaged and dressed, the injured man (who had been walking from Jerusalem to Jericho) was loaded onto the back of the donkey belonging to the caring and compassionate man from Samaria (who had ridden on the donkey on that same road).  In other words—they traded places.

When I constantly remind myself to simply ‘trade places’ with those suffering and in need around me, it helps keep my heart soft and open and compassionate, it helps keep my words kind and my hands gentle—whether I am in a small mission hospital in remote Africa or in my neighborhood in Houston.