Tony Campolo tells a story about M Scott Peck, the American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, which was published in 1978.
He was by all accounts an unusual person in his private life, which was chaotic in ways with a string of self-confessed extra-marital affairs, failed marriages and estrangement from some of his children. But in his writings, and he wrote widely, are to be found matchless pearls of wisdom and truth.
Tony Campolo’s story is an example. He tells of a woman patient of Dr Peck who was suffering from extreme depression. One day when she was due for an appointment with him she called his surgery to say that her car had broken down on the way. He offered to pick her up on his way to the hospital where he worked and where the appointment was, but he explained that he had a call to make with another patient first. If she was willing to wait in her car while he made the call then she could get a lift and have the appointment. She agreed.
When they got to the hospital he had another suggestion. He gave her the names of two of his patients who were convalescing there and he told her that they would appreciate a visit from her.
When she finally sat down with Dr Peck an hour and a half later the woman was on an emotional high. She told him that making the visits and trying to cheer up those patients had lifted her spirits and that she was feeling absolutely great.
‘Well,’ said Peck, ‘we now know how to get you out of your depression; we now have found the cure for your problem!’ to which the woman answered, ‘Surely you don’t expect me to do that every day, do you?’
Tony Campolo summarised the story: ‘That’s the tragedy of many of our lives. Doing what Jesus would do, caring for others, focusing on their needs rather than obsessing on our own lifts us out of our doldrums and onto a higher plane; a better quality of life. And yet we often think that imitating Jesus is a burden. But it is not!’
How often have you found that following his example feeds you emotionally and lifts your spirits because it is difficult to feel and show compassion to others when all of your attention is fixed on your own problems and burdens?