It was a small thing, really, but when I swerved my car to avoid hitting it, somehow the image of that upside-down turtle wouldn’t go away.
It wasn’t a big booming voice, but a quiet whisper of reason.
My reasons for not turning around went something like this:
“You’ll be late–again.”
“There’s no place to pull over.” (two-lane country road)
“Someone else will do it.”
In a matter of seconds the flurry of excuses were drowned out by those two words:
Not knowing if the turtle was even still alive, I knew that most likely he would not be by the end of the day if someone didn’t help the guy out. Probably struck by another vehicle as he crossed the road, it had apparently rolled him until he landed quite upside-down near the middle of the road.
This turtle was at a crossroad. Would he live or die on this day, and would anyone really take the time to notice his struggle? Was there anyone out there that would even care that his world was turned upside down?
“It’s just a turtle,” you might say.
But it’s not. It is not just a turtle. It’s a life lesson on compassion.
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
Those same excuses are often the very reason we pass others by without noticing them. This world is full of people whose lives have been turned upside down by a tragedy, a divorce, a death, or a diagnosis. Children are often disregarded or written off because they whine or cry, when the reality is a much deeper problem. Loneliness, fear, worry, and uncertainty can breed and consume us.
But we pass by. We brush off the quiet voice telling us to speak. Or to help. Or to pray.
Being kind and compassionate is more than just a flippant,
“Oh my, that poor turtle.”
Kindness requires action. Compassion demands a response.
How will you respond to the gentle whisper you hear today? Are you listening? Are you looking? Are you willing?
Will you “turn over the turtle?”
I know, it’s not always convenient.
It might require humility and a willingness to admit that it’s not the turtle’s fault that you were running late.
If you look closely enough, you will see that God is at work all around you. Learning to listen to His voice will be life-changing for you, and quite possibly life-giving for someone else.
Sometimes it is the words you say that encourage someone who is struggling. Other times it might take some action. Like a hug. Or sacrifice. Always, it is an act of obedience and a call to prayer.
Pray for that grumpy cashier. The person who is grieving. The mama who is struggling with little ones. The elderly woman holding up traffic as she struggles to cross the street.
Helping that turtle didn’t change my life, but it was a fresh reminder that by being aware of those around me, God just might give me an opportunity to show compassion.
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