“Tradition,” the iconic song Harnick and Bock wrote for “Fiddler on the Roof,” is about roles in a Jewish family—Papa, Mama, Son, and Daughter. But for me, Tradition means a continuing pattern of beliefs or practice handed down from one generation to another. One tradition I treasure is the Week of Compassion. Surprisingly (to me), only one page in one of the main Disciples of Christ history books mentions the Week of Compassion. On page 408 of Journey in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the authors discuss interdenominational efforts in 1943 to assist refugees and orphans of the war, war prisoners, and relief for missions devastated by the war. The key statement reads:
The Week of February 20-27, 1944, was proposed as the time when Disciples everywhere would observe a Week of Compassion during which funds for these causes would be raised. The proposal was enthusiastically received and the goal successfully underwritten. Thereafter, the Week of Compassion became a permanent part of the program of the Disciples. Seventy-six years after the first Week of Compassion, we’re still at it, thanks largely to the generations that keep handing it down to us. By now, we no longer think of this program literally as “a week,” but as a year-round commitment to provide relief to victims of war and of natural disasters.
In 2018, in the Florida panhandle and the Carolinas, Hurricanes Florence and Michael got personal for those whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. At the time, I was working with a church where a member’s sister lived at Mexico Beach, Florida. This woman’s home had been ruined by the storm. We reached out to the Week of Compassion, which mobilized volunteers from nearby churches to clear the debris and put a tarp over the house, which had lost its roof. Over the following weeks, we raised funds to help that family, and the Week of Compassion program supplemented our offerings to resettle the elderly woman and her disabled son in their home.
The Week of Compassion works with Church World Service and with local congregations around the world to accomplish miracles of relief at unimaginably low overhead cost. This program is dear to my heart. If you haven’t already adopted this tradition of our church, I hope you will this year. Please offer a generous over-and-above contribution designated for the Week of Compassion this month.
– Phil Miller