By: Tessa Valadez
Audrey Hepburn is my favorite. Hands down. She has such an incredible presence in films and brings with her a genuine delight to her roles. I’ve watched so many of her films, but one that seemed evasive over the past couple of years was Funny Face. Don’t gasp or say, “You love Audrey Hepburn, but you’ve never seen Funny Face?” No. But I have now, so all is right with the world again. Before I begin, please allow me to draw you into a memorable scene that caught my attention. Not only do I love the blocking and lighting, but the conversation is what got the cogs churning in my mind:
No, I’m not going romantic on you. I want to speak on empathy. Audrey Hepburn’s character, Jo Stockton, is a girl wrapped up in books, philosophy, and all things head knowledge. Then Fred Astaire, who plays the character of Dick Avery, comes along and introduces her to a completely different world — heart. Throughout the rest of the film I watched a bobbing of dynamics from one side of the playing field to the other: head vs. heart. The way they merge? Through community with one another. I am Jo.
Growing up, I admired the laws and statutes God established in the Bible. I loved — and still love — the beauty created from order and the art mastered by discipline, but my head was wrapped up in a solid brick wall that only knew what it was to be the light of Christ on paper; and I was just beginning to scratch the surface of what it meant to be the light of Christ, in person, when I was attending a university. So when I stepped out from under the academic umbrella, a torrential downpour of experience came when Jesus took me to splash in the puddles and take a leap into the unknown. I became a physical representation of Christ’s love in the most vulnerable place I could go to: home. And it all began with my internship.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this year, I had never understood the world of missions except through the basic formula that: me + plane + foreign country + Jesus = missions. I had never been introduced to a higher math of mission work in my hometown. Funny how the greatest culture shock I think I have yet faced has been right at home.
God is bringing me from sympathy, to empathy.
Looking back, I realize I have been struggling to live from the safe distance that is sympathy — I seem to understand where others are coming from, but that is about as committed as I come. I’m going to take Jo’s definition further and say that empathy is not just putting oneself in someone else’s place, but committing to stick around and come alongside others.
Jo is introduced to a whole new perspective when Dick kisses her at the end of this clip. She sees there is more to her world than philosophy and books. I’m not saying it took a kiss for me to come around, but a community of families who daily exercise empathy and seek Jesus and his kingdom in all things. This is my experience with Border Fellows and Ciudad Nueva. Hearing a student’s hopes and fears when we’re making crafts, or laughing over jokes as I drive them home reveals Empathy’s beauty. My head has found empathy in community.
God has come in and invited me to see his heart for, not just the Ciudad Nueva community, but the world. Literally. Every person on this planet. God’s heart for us is to bear our burdens, to reach across the chasm of our brokenness and create a bridge to beauty. This is Jesus. This is Jesus in us.
I will never be the same.