Do you feel like the entire world – especially the hospitals of New York City – is now crowded inside your home?
We might be in lock-down and seeing almost no one, at the same time our homes are flooded with images of others — through the newspaper, television and internet. We see heroic nurses, exhausted doctors, grieving families, dutiful yet worried workers in stores and public services.
Do you feel a shiver of wonder and gratitude for them? That shiver is not to be underestimated. Science has mapped out how we respond physically to the sacrifices and sufferings of others. In the face of others’ suffering and sacrifice, our parasympathetic system makes us shiver and even tear up.
But most surprising is that our brains begin to change. After exposure to others’ suffering, many people measurably increase “pro-social” behaviors – such as helping a stranger, offering a gift, communicating with kindness.
In this Sunday’s lesson from Romans, the Apostle Paul calls us to “pro-social” behavior in some of the most magnificent words in the Bible (Romans 12: 9 – 21). But first, he says, we must change our minds – our minds must, somehow, be “renewed.” “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2).
How does that happen? Hint: what in your faith makes you shiver? (And find out more this Sunday.)