I was watching an episode of a program filmed in a London hospital over a 24 hour period. It showed many people coming to emergency, seeking medical assistance.
One old man had fallen and there were fears he may have fractured his skull. He had tripped down the stairs of his unit. He eventually recovered, and months later the TV crew showed him at home, feeling much better. He said he missed his wife, who had died years before. Then he said, “I used to go to bed 10 minutes earlier than her. I would warm up her side of the bed, and when she came in, I would move to my side. I didn’t mind in the least. That’s what I should do—I love my wife”.
A simple story perhaps—but it showed to me the true meaning of the word tenderness. He was a tender and loving man who was kind and considerate.
We sometimes see this action. A senior citizen is waiting in a queue at the airport, and struggles with her baggage. Most people ignore her—but occasionally, a kind-hearted fellow passenger stops and offers to help. It may be no big-deal—but to that older person, it means a lot.
Being cold and callous means you don’t have feelings for others—you’re number 1, having a ‘get out of my way’ attitude. Tender-hearted people have a natural ability to empathise with others, to feel what they are feeling. But hard-hearted people by contrast, can look at people who are hurting and say, I wonder what their problem is?
It’s hard to believe but this 1998 story is true. In Chicago a 15-year-old boy lay bleeding from a gunshot wound to his abdomen just steps away from a hospital and could not be rescued—because rules required that ambulances bring in patients. Frustrated police officers finally carried the fatally wounded Christopher into Ravenswood Hospital, but he died a short time later.
Witnesses at the scene said hospital emergency workers refused to come to his aid despite pleas, quoting hospital rules. A hospital spokeswoman simply stated that emergency room personnel were barred from dispensing care outside the hospital. When rules and regulations get in the way of commonsense compassion, it is a sign that hearts have become hardened. President Clinton a few days later threatened to cut funding to all hospitals unless this ridiculous rule was changed.
Hard-hearted people need to ask some hard questions. They need to ask themselves, How would it feel to be handicapped, unemployed, widowed, or terminally ill? They need to mentally get into the skin of those who are in need. Unfortunately, this word ‘tenderness’ is not popular in the media—some see it as a weak and largely feminine trait. But that’s not the case at all.
An Act of Kindness from a President
Despite his busy schedule during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often visited the hospitals to cheer the wounded. On one occasion he saw a young fellow who was near death. “Is there anything I can do for you?” asked the compassionate President. “Please write a letter to my mother,” came the reply. Unrecognised by the soldier, the President sat down and wrote as the youth told him what to say. The letter read:
My Dearest Mother, I was badly hurt while doing my duty, and I won’t recover. Don’t sorrow too much for me. May God bless you and Father. Kiss Mary and John for me.
The young man was too weak to go on, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and then added this postscript: “Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln.”
Asking to see the note, the soldier was astonished to discover who had shown him such kindness. “Are you really our President?” he asked. “Yes,” was the quiet answer. “Now, is there anything else I can do?” The lad feebly replied, “Will you please hold my hand? I think it would help to see me through to the end.” The tall, gaunt man granted his request, offering warm words of encouragement until death came to the wounded soldier.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”. And that is the teaching from the Bible for all people: be tenderhearted.