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To some degree, the world we see shapes our reality.
Perhaps you know the following colloquial short story. A Chinese emperor saw some men leading an ox down the street, headed for the temple where the ox would be slaughtered in a religious ceremony.

The emperor was so moved by seeing the ox being taken to be killed that he said to his aides, “Release the ox. Give them a sheep.”

Later someone asked the emperor, “Do you like an ox better than you like a sheep?”

“Well, no, not necessarily,” he said. “It’s just that I saw the ox.”

What we see affects us a great deal. Case in point is the jockey who rides the incredible racehorse, California Chrome, who, on June 7, has a chance to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978.

That jockey’s name is Victor Espinoza, recognized as among the top 20 jockeys nationally in earnings.

He’s only 5-foot-1 and 112 pounds, but he has a heart bigger than Churchill Downs.

“I just want to mention one thing. I’ve always been for all the cancer people. I support that,” he said at a press conference. “One day, I went to the City of Hope (a hospital in Duarte, California). All the kids, they have cancer. I can’t go there. Really, like I cry. Since that time, I donate 10 percent of my earnings for all the kids that have cancer. It makes me cry to see all the kids that can’t even have a life like we have.”

“Out of sight, out of mind,” the old saying goes. What got to Espinoza was to “see” the kids.

Had he not gone to the hospital, then he would not have seen the kids. And if he had not seen the kids, then his heart would not have been touched.

Espinoza continued his story. He was taken by a millionaire friend about 10 years ago to see the City of Hope.

Espinoza had no idea what it was, but he went at the encouragement of this friend.

“We walk in,” he said, “and I can’t stay. I see kids with no hair, other stuff. I was only there maybe two minutes, if that. I went back to the car. I cried then too.”

I would suggest that we spend too much time seeing stuff we shouldn’t see.

You know, watching Miley Cyrus act like a 10-year-old or watching today’s sensational cable news (“ain’t no business like show business”), and letting it define our world.

Instead, my world should be defined by the New Testament and the heart that God gives me because I have opened my eyes to see the world he loves so much.

I need to see more pictures of hurting, suffering, dying people and then let that touch my heart.

I need to see more children with bald heads to remind me of the detached world I live in.

By seeing these images, I become aware of the profound needs around me and am inspired to act.

The Bible says that seeing a great need inspired Jesus. “When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36).

One of the reasons that international mission trips or out-of-state (area) mission trips have been so good for the congregation I pastor is because we get out of our surroundings and we see others much less fortunate.

Such trips often don’t do as much good for the people there as it does for us.

For example, taking a trip to Africa years ago has made me forever grateful for clean water, great medical care and a good mattress.

The media went to a press conference in the Churchill Downs pressroom expecting to talk about horses, and Victor Espinoza got them thinking about kids with cancer.

“Sometimes, I forget to pay my bills,” the little man with a big heart said, “but I never forget about City of Hope.”

What he saw touched his heart and his wallet, which sounds a lot like a story from the Bible about another “wee little man” named Zaccheus.

Steve Davis is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Carrollton, Georgia, and the author of “From the News to the Pews.” A version of this article first appeared in The Messenger, First Carrollton’s weekly newsletter. It is used with permission.

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