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A Cup of Compassion  

Flames of fury.  Choking smoke.  Paris in shock.

Last April, we gawked at our phones, tablets, and TVs as the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral smoldered.  The sight prompted me to grab a book that had long sat on my shelf unread: "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel unfolds the epic tale of a beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda. Pursued by the evil archdeacon Claude Frollo, she is protected by Quasimodo, Notre Dame's disfigured bell ringer.  His one eye, bulging forehead, and trademark hump make for a grotesque character that evinces shock and shun from nearly all. Quasimodo "has a back like a dome and legs like twisted columns," said one.

Ultimately, he endured the pain of a public "pillory" in front of a seething crowd.  This meant he was shoved into an iron cage which dangled in the ferocious afternoon sun, his feet and wrists shackled while his back endured lash after lash from a whip.  Then it was the public’s turn to humiliate.

Quasimodo cried out for water. In response, someone hurled a stone at his head.  Another flung a broken pitcher at his chest. Not one soul in the jeering mass had so much as a drop of pity for the bell ringer.

That’s when Esmerelda stepped forward. She produced a gourd of water and held it up for the tortured man.  He drank freely—as a single tear coursed down his misshapen face.

Hugo writes, “It would have been a touching sight anywhere—this beautiful, fresh, pure, charming girl, who was at the same time so weak…hastening to the relief of so much wretchedness, deformity, and malevolence.  On a pillory, the spectacle was sublime."

You and I live in a day where the crowd is increasingly heartless—even hostile—toward anyone different or slow or less than beautiful.   Best not be overweight.  Or wrinkled.  Or wearing the wrong clothing labels.

Empathy is in short supply.  All around us are people thirsty for a small cup of compassion. I ask, who is the Quasimodo in your life—the one that others have neglected, shunned, or beaten down?

Swimming in waterfalls of grace from our Savior—will we not share a cup with our Quasimodo?

I dare you. Do something today that’s not just good or great—but sublime. Share a cup of compassion with someone who desperately needs it.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. —Matthew 5:7


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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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