There is something unique and heart-stirring when a powerful man stoops to help. I’m reminded of the stories being told by many of the friends of Anthony Bourdain. Memory after memory of his sensitivity to people and his gracious inclusion of all persons. In many ways, he was the model of the manliness of sensitivity.
He may not have claimed to be a Christian, I don’t know his religious affiliations, but his demeanor, his manliness, his love, his compassion all speak of someone not self-focused. He seems to have risen above self-protection in order to sacrifice for others. I, for one, enjoyed watching his barrier-free interactions with people of every possible social origin.
His is a beautiful picture of selfless, manly sensitivity. In this way, he looked like Jesus. And we are all called to be more like Jesus.
One of the tragedies of our disconnected society is the lack of awareness of the emotional needs of others. Many have shoved all their emotional capabilities into a tightly guarded cell to avoid feeling. They multiply distractions, substitute them for real connection, and miss opportunities to truly help and love the people around them.
Jesus wasn’t like that. He was quite sensitive to the needs of those around Him. One of the most striking occasions happened when a mother lost her son.
Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:11-15
This was a miraculous act of compassion that happened at the center of the town. The gate in any town in the first century was where the leaders met, commerce happened, and all manner of people went back and forth – like the town square in a small town. There was probably a hustle and bustle of many things going on – but Jesus notices a grieving woman out of all the commotion.
To be able to look past all the ‘business’, the important people, the meetings, the projects, and the distractions to see grief and suffering and lend aid is beautiful. And it’s what men should be doing.
It’s what I imagine Anthony Bourdain doing in the crush of a busy Hong Kong street or the rush of a middle-eastern marketplace – seeking out good food and joie de vivre without overlooking the needs of those all around him. Perhaps those needs became burdens he couldn’t bear, I don’t know. But when I watch him I’d like to think that more of us could be like I imagine him to be.
I’m taking Anthony’s untimely parting as a call to manly sensitivity. I’d like to see his legacy of compassion and care for all people become the norm. It’s a divine calling we have wandered from.