Historical setting: 588 C.E. Forest Primeval
The druid told me Thole stayed at our so-called camp while I was in the village, and they loaned him fleeces and straw for warmth and shelter. I find him there still sleeping in something he constructed of a lean-to.
“Good morning, my friend. I hear you are indebted to the druid for all this finery –these fleeces and this straw.”
“Ezra! You’re back! I thought surely you would be dead of plague by now.”
“There is no plague in that village.” I go nearer him, to show him the herbs I have. “It’s a less deadly fever and they provided us with the healing herbs for the tea in case it should come here.”
“No.” he says moving away as though I were some vicious adder. “Don’t come here with your sickness.”
“What sickness? I’m well, and maybe I won’t even catch it at all. Or maybe I will, and if I go mad in the fever, you can just brew me some tea.” He seems horrified. I ask, “How is it possible you spent your childhood with Eve and yet you are so afraid of sickness?”
“I failed her in that way. If I couldn’t even visit the sick with Auntie Eve, how can you expect me to be around sick people now? I found it disgusting and horrible, so when I had to go along I just waited outside.”
Dear God, did you forget to plant the seed of empathy in the soul of this man, or is it buried so deep in his fear of helplessness that it isn’t nurtured to life? Please break Thole’s fear that he may be touched by simple kindness.
Thole interrupts my silent prayer, “What now, are you calling God’s curses down on me?”
“Not curses, only empathy.”
“I don’t need pity.”
“I said ‘empathy’ not pity. Empathy is when you share in feeling with another. Pity is when you are just glad the suffering of another isn’t yours. Pagan gods pity us. The one true God who is love empathizes. So I’d have to pray to a pretend god if I was mustering pity for you. Do you need to be pitied?”
“I don’t know what I need. But if you start spewing sickness and stinking I can’t help you. That just makes me sick too.”
“So you are saying you do have empathy. You just don’t know what to do with the holy gift.”