Compassion in Small Things

The Rich Man’s Guest

Kibera slum, Nairobi

“Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:2, Msg.

There’s an old Jewish folktale that tells the story of a famous rabbi who once visited the home of a rich man. The rich man prepared a great feast for his special guest. The banquet table was filled with all sorts of fine food.

Now, the rabbi, like all orthodox Jews, was in the habit of washing his hands thoroughly before eating anything. Sometimes the ceremonial washing of hands could take several minutes.

This time, however, the rabbi poured only a few tiny drops of water from the rich man’s pitcher onto his hands.

“Rabbi,” the rich man said. “I don’t understand. You used so little water, certainly not enough to get your hands clean. The pitcher is full of water! Use as much as you like.”

Without speaking a word, the rabbi nodded to a large window in the room. The rich man looked and saw his little servant girl struggling up the hill from the well. She was bent low under a heavy piece of wood that she balanced on her shoulders. From each end of the wooden bar hung a heavy bucket of water.

“How could I wash my hands at the expense of that poor girl?” the rabbi asked his host.

Shalman Refugee Camp near Peshawar, Pakistan

“Perhaps the water I saved will prevent one trip to the well for her.”

That rabbi knew the meaning of compassion. If the rich man hadn’t said anything, no one would have noticed the rabbi’s act of compassion. But God would have seen it, of course. And the rabbi would have known that he had done something, however small, to help that servant girl.

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2 Responses to Compassion in Small Things

  1. Pingback: Keeping Score: Pastor + God, A Majority? « Walking in the Wilderness

  2. Pingback: Keeping Score: Pastor + God, A Majority? » Battered, Blessed ... and Still

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