A cardiac stress test is a medical test used to determine the health and resilience of a human heart. Doctors will monitor a patient during heavy exertion to determine the physical condition of the heart. It is used to diagnose heart disease, test recovery from a heart attack or procedure, or simply to understand a patient’s health.
The western world is facing its own cardiac stress test in the ongoing refugee crisis. The health of our individual and collective hearts is on trial as we witness the plight of people fleeing their homes as a result of war, death threats, famine, and persecution. Many were galvanized by the images of people flooding trains, a dead child on the beach, or war in far away lands. However, reduced media exposure, rising nationalism, and cruel politics have combined to muffle the voices of those who cry out for asylum and relief. The initial sprint of activism and aid has settled into a long slow marathon. It is important to understand the cycles of people’s attention, but be persistent in listening to the voices of refugees and helping them however we can.
When the heart is unstressed or neglected it dies. The same thing happens with our spiritual hearts, they need exercise. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of those who suffer in order to work the muscles of our human empathy. If we are failing our stress test we can open our hearts to those who seem different than us. They may come from distant lands, speak different languages, or worship in different ways, but they worry about their families and their communities, just as we do. If we want to strengthen our hearts, we can hardly do better than to open them to refugees.