Falling from the Wall of Indifference

By October 4, 2010 culture, faith No Comments

My heart broke this summer. Like the fairy tale, I had a great fall, and there’s no putting me back together again.

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You see, I met some kids whose eyes reached in and grabbed hold of my heart. These were old souls staring out from young bodies. They were mere children, but they were living alone, fending for themselves. There was no adult to tuck them in or protect them or make them cookies.

For weeks, I couldn’t help but weep at the thought of them.

It didn’t matter that I met them only on paper and saw them only in pictures. These kids are real people. They have names. I can picture them living down the street. I could picture them living under my roof.

And it didn’t matter that they actually lived in Africa, far from me here in the U.S. Midwest.

It only mattered that those kids were kids—and I was doing nothing to help them.

It all started when I read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision. Within the first pages, I was ruined. That book masterfully used emotion to communicate the wrenching reality of poverty’s cruelness throughout the world.

According to authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath who wrote Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, emotion is one of the six traits of a sticky idea.

Stearns’s message was emotionally sticky. It has stuck to me for months now, still evoking emotion.

Sticky ideas don’t use emotion for emotion’s sake. Pulling on heartstrings is pointless unless you can tie a knot to anchor those strings to the idea. Pointless emotion will poke on the heart for a moment but fail to inspire long-term adoption of the idea.1

While reading Stearns’s book, I visited the World Vision Web site. It further embeds an emotional connection by featuring the sweet faces of children who are in desperate circumstances. Their eyes tell stories my heart cannot bear to hear.

Still, I stayed and listened. I let these stories penetrate my heart until it could no longer stay properly stationed and aloof on my wall of indifference.

I let these kids into my heart; my heart grew heavy with care. Lopsided, it toppled off the wall of disinterest, falling, falling to the ground, where it broke wide open.

My heart remains splayed on the ground, where it is wrought with feeling. And the aching tells me I am still alive.

Read other Made to Stick posts from this week here.

1. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (New York, NY: Random House, 2008), 168–169.
Image: www.barnesandnoble.com

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