A True Compassionary

We have said “Goodbye” to a true compassionary in the last few days—Rosalynn Carter. The celebrations of her life have been a sweet break from the chaos and negativity that dominate the news cycle these days.

It would not surprise you that I steer clear of anything political in these blogs. It’s just not worth the risk. Then why write about the wife of a former President? Because she lived above politics and consistently used her influence for the good of people in need. I can’t help quoting her Pastor, who said at her funeral service at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia: “No one has anything bad to say about Rosalynn Carter. Not one word. No one on the left and no one on the right. I think that’s because she didn’t worship the donkey or the elephant; she worshipped the lamb.”

A True Compassionary

Compassionary is not a title; it’s a role. It’s not an achievement that is earned but an attribute that is evidenced by a life lived for others. There seems to be universal agreement that Rosalynn Carter was such a person.

Her Pastor, Rev. Tony Lowden, said in his eulogy at her memorial service:

“Her family, her friends, her neighbors all knew her to be someone who did not think of herself but rather of others and others’ needs. Her care and concern for those around her defined her and left her the most remarkable impression upon our hearts and memories . . . .”

The list of ways Rosalynn Carter served others is long:

  • Advocating for the rights of women
  • Advocating and working for mental health issues
  • Working alongside her husband to build Habitat Houses (serving 4,426 families worldwide from 1984 through 2019)
  • Working with her husband and the Carter Center to stamp out guinea worm disease
  • And many, many other compassionate, humanitarian projects

Suffice it to say, serving people in need was a lifestyle for Mrs. Carter. Granted she had more opportunities than most people, but most people with her influence and notoriety do not use them for the benefit of others, and certainly not to the extent she did.

Portrait of Humility

What strikes me about Mrs. Carter’s faithful service to others is her humility. One of her sons told the story at her memorial service about the time when the family was on a flight when she opened a Tupperware container of pimento cheese and made pimento cheese sandwiches for as far as they would go, including regular passengers. A former First Lady making pimento sandwiches for strangers?! What is that but humility?

In Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving I say that the first trait of a compassionary is humility, even before compassion. I cite the oft-quoted definition of humility— “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” Humility is putting others before self . . ., naturally, not because it’s the virtuous thing to do or because it scores points but because it’s your nature.

Our culture is addicted to power . . . just about every way you can define it. Genuine humility, especially that of an otherwise powerful person, is as conspicuous as an orchid in a bunch of weeds. Not only do we notice, but we marvel at it.

Humility is a beautiful thing. As beautiful as a sunrise over the mountains or the reflection of a full moon on a lake. To see a person of great power and influence show compassion for a poor, marginalized person is even more inspiring than anything we appreciate in creation. I believe it moves us because we know instinctively it’s the way it is supposed to be, the way God intended.

Humility that leads to compassion is also powerful. I define power as the ability to make things happen . . . for good or bad. Humility is powerful in that it rings true with what we know to be right and true and life-sustaining.

We celebrate Rosalynn Carter’s life because of her humility that expressed itself in caring ways consistently and persistently. Only when she became so limited by her frailty in the last few years did she cease to serve others. Her Pastor said in his funeral message:

[If Mrs. Carter were here today] she would tell you don’t stop. There’s still too many homeless people in the world. There’s still too many people who don’t have equal rights. There’s still too many people who suffer from mental illness. There’s still too many people who look at the color of her skin. She would tell you “Don’t stop.”

Indeed, another true compassionary has passed from the scene. May her memory continue to inspire us to live like her. She was a true compassionary because she worshipped the Lamb.

Written by:
David Crocker

David Crocker is the Founder of Operation Inasmuch. He was a pastor for 38 years prior to launching the Inasmuch ministry which has equipped more than 2,100 churches in 25 states and several other countries to mobilize their members in mercy ministry. David’s passion is seeing believers serving as the hands and feet of Jesus as a lifestyle.

One response to “A True Compassionary”

  1. Jerry Capps says:

    You described her life so well.

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