Revolution of tenderness is one of the dreams expressed by Pope Francis during one of his surprising TED talks on the theme The Future You — Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone. He proposes a “self-emptying” of everyone specially the powerful and the privileged in favour of the powerless and unprivileged, so that all God’s children might be in communion and share mother earth’s resources equitably.
Pope Francis bases his reflections on Jesus’ well-known parable of a good samaritan where a man beaten and robbed by bandits is left half-dead by the roadside. A priest and a Levite — regarded as holy men — pass by the injured man but do not help him. Later, a samaritan passing by feels sorry for the wounded traveller, bandages his wounds and takes him to an inn for recovery and rest. He tells the innkeeper, “Take care of him, and whatever else you spend, I’ll repay you when I return.” And then pays some money.
Samaritans in Jesus’ time were a despised lot, considered “impure” and “outsiders”. Yet, it was only the Samaritan — not the “pure”, powerful and privileged priests and Levites — who responded with tender compassion to the one in need. By so doing, he proved to be a true neighbour to the wounded traveller. Today when we speak of good samaritans, we talk about people who have compassion for everyone and help them in need.
Compassion — and its equivalents like daya, karuna, anukampa is one of the finest virtues that one can cultivate. It is synonymous with tenderness. It refers to a feeling of tenderness, sensitivity towards, and solidarity with, those who suffer. Compassion and tenderness should not be equated with effeminacy or womanliness; rather, it is a trait of the stout-hearted and the strong-willed.
I write this from one of south Gujarat’s remote villages, where I experience exemplary communitarian sharing and caring among simple, unlettered adivasis. Births and deaths, farming and fishing, suffering and sickness, festivals and weddings are neither just individual nor familial events, but involve the whole tribe — each one reaching out to the others with joyful generosity and enviable tenderness. I learn valuable lessons here. Is Pope Francis pointing to You and me? Yes! You and I are privileged ones who can read, write and communicate in English. If you’re reading this newspaper, you’re probably abreast with what’s happening in our country and the world. And, if I’m not mistaken, you already have a good job or will most likely be well-placed in future. This places an enormous responsibility on us to catalyse this “revolution of tenderness”. Why not respond today for a golden tomorrow?