So what's this all about?
What might this mean?
Well, I'm sure it evades easy definition, perhaps diminished by our attempts to pin it in words.
I'm sure as well that it's integral to the second heartbeat of our Christian faith, namely that of love for our fellow man.
And I see that it strikes first-time visitors to Romania like a lightning bolt, startling and staggering and inspiring and exciting in equal measure. For faces do not lie.
Because hearts are moved at the sight of suffering. And in that moment, an imperative sounds.
Its sphere is not so much in the word-place, that is, our mouths, nor in our thought-place, that is, our minds, but in the central depths of the human heart. Depths of which perhaps we were hitherto unaware.
For something now insists. Unrestingly gives commands. And its note is of the order that something must be done. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. Something must be done.
Perhaps an example will help.
I remember vividly entering Florina's house for the first time. Florina, 18, suffers from epidermolysis bullosa, otherwise known as butterfly skin. As well as blistering and breaking and roughly reddening large patches of her skin, it has caused Florina to lose both hands.
And what the disease has done to her body, the jibes and exclusion and all-round friendlessness of fellow pupils has done to her soul.
The light starting to fail that Tuesday afternoon, we entered a
living room to see Florina occupying the furthest corner. Eyes fixed
to the ground, gestures subdued, timidity personified. And with no words.
But then, the paintings. Oh those paintings! The mechanics of how handless arms might hold a brush forgotten, we marvelled at the impressionist shades and splendid hues. And a smile flickered around the edges of Florina's mouth, preciously genuine, and yet still floor-bound.
The rest of the afternoon and its fading light soon passed in a blur of Romanian coffee, heart-rending stories, occasional amusing anecdotes and quiet tears.
And then we rose to leave. The obligatory photos done, we drifted outside and saw a handful of early teens. They were playing in the street with the unselfconscious abandon so common in Romanian villages.
Florina, equally self-forgetful, advanced a yard or two towards them. Hope and interest quietly lightened her face. The youngsters glanced up and retreated a comparable distance, their laughter dampened for a second before being resumed in the opposite direction.
And as our car drove off to Oradea, and even more so as we later returned to Draut, the thunderous imperative of
compassion was sounding.
Something must be done. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. And if mountains need be climbed and and crosses borne for it to happen, well, in one sense, all the better.
Is this a faint shadow of that great heart which two thousand years ago carried the shame and bore the cost? Is the imperative of our compassion a glimmer of something rooted not in time but eternity, and perhaps even at the core of Divinity? Personally, I believe so.
Dear ones, please help us in this. Florina's paintings are available at £100 apiece, all proceeds being returned to her for help with medical expenses. And pray for Emanuel Hospice, which has been ministering to similar cases in the imperative of compassion for over 20 years, the fire of Christ being in the midst of it all.