“Faced with today’s problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility. Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.” ~ St.. John Paul II
In the fall of 1996, I arrived in Karlsruhe, Germany with some of my co-workers. After a successful trade exhibition at Hannover, we scheduled some follow-up business meetings with some German companies in the Southern side.
Arriving in a tram, I enjoyed looking around spotting peculiarities in this little industrialized German city. In this business trip, males dominated the females with a ratio of 5:1. Thus, when the men invited us to tour the city, I was clueless to what they consider fun until they brought me to Brunnenstrasse.
In German, strasse means street or paved road. Brunnen could mean “fountain, font, spring”. Thus, Brunnestrasse appeared to be a typical German street with a fountain somewhere.
As we approached the street, my male co-worker decided to tell us that we were actually going to a “red light district.” My grimace did not faze them. Instead, they chuckled at our powerlessness. What could go wrong walking on a street in the middle of the day?
Beige-colored, 2 to 3 story rectangular-shaped structures, huge glass windows described the architecture of the buildings. It was like a small American business town with huge glass boutiques in downtown. But, instead of mannequins and product displays, there were provocatively-dressed women, of all shapes and sizes, standing behind the glass.
At that point, I continued walking, trying not to stare at the almost naked women. Strong, heavy foul curses from some women bombed our silence. At the end of the street, I felt relieved while the men were joking at one another at the experience. That was enough of a day tour for me and I stayed in my hotel for the rest of the day.
For every situation we are brought to face or deal with, such as the unexpected trip to an international red light district, what was the response required from us?
I have to admit, I forced myself to not feel anything. I was afraid that if I said more, my male co-workers will laugh at me at my disgust. I hoped that my memory of this incident will go away. And, it did. I have no recollection for the last 20 years. Until, I was convicted to ponder on a more Christian response to a situation like this.
I realized that in making myself numb, I did not respond in a situation of powerlessness with love. No feelings of compassion came out of me. For the plight of this German women in this prostitution industry, I did not feel sorry for them. In my safe world, I looked inward more worried on how to get out of there. I did not realize that their suffering might have resulted to their bitter and angry curses to us.
The devil has made our hearts numb to the miseries of other people who chose different paths from us or who were victims of society’s economic hardships. We are numb to the concerns of the illegal immigrants in our land. We are numb to the poor in the nearby county or in our parish. We have judged others for their ill luck and blamed them for their situation.
Let us pray for the grace of compassion so we can respond to others, our neighbors with a loving vulnerable heart that is not afraid to shed a tear for those who are suffering in our midst.
Prayer for the Grace of Compassion
“Lord, we repent for our numb and cold hearts. We repent for the times we shut our senses and our hearts to the burdens of others. We repent for not taking a loving action to the miseries of the people you brought to our attention. Grant us a heart that listens, so we can respond with love everyday of our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”