On Compassion

My new friend Lindsay reminds me of the type of person Beth Clark describes in the book Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, she says:

People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.

This is a simple story of a neighbor being present to a neighbor. Lindsay found her neighbor to be extremely important and didn’t assume someone else would help this family. She knew that in her small way she could be the difference that this family needed. This situation could be messy or uncomfortable, but instead of focusing on fear she chose to love and show compassion first. By sharing this experience she also opened it up for others to come together, which builds community.

Need for compassion

There are more details to this story that we will never know, such as the circumstances that led to the family’s poverty. Even if we never know these details, the important thing is that this is a family, just like yours or mine. They have the same worth as any other human person. All of us are weak, broken, and rely on others for our healing and growth. Our situations may be different, and our weaknesses may manifest in different ways. Sometimes those ways may be more tangible than others, but we are all worthy of love, compassion, and help.

I need people in my life. I need community. I need God. I need the kindness of a neighbor when I’m having a hard time. I’m sure you do too.

When I worked at L’arche, I became friends with a fellow assistant named Malia. She told me about an experience that still stands out to me. While she was in the Mission Year program, she spent a day in Philadelphia without food or money.  Part of the challenge was to beg for the money to be able to eat.  What stood out to her was the way people wouldn’t even look at her, no one even took the time to know her name.  She realized that the isolation and the lack of compassion might get to her if she had to stand on that corner longer than a day.

To read more about what Malia learned that day read her post In Need of Grace. I also recommend reading her current blog Community and Growth.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming the worst of people. There’s a major problem in our culture to not see the humanity of our fellow brothers and sisters.  Oftentimes people only see the dignity of the human person in certain types of people.

Love is…

Bob Goff reminds me of what love is, in his book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World:

That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.

Leave a kind note, organize meals for a family who has an illness, ask how a friend needs support during a hard time.  Be open to when an opportunity presents itself and don’t get stuck in self-doubt.  Serve others by knowing your own skills and offering them when you feel called. Just listening to someone and truly caring or speaking words of encouragement when they are pursuing an idea that challenges them makes so much difference. It’s actually quite incredible when we simply choose to love.

I’ve received so much kindness and encouragement from friends and family. When my leg is spazzing out my husband runs to the store in the middle of the night without hesitation to get me a banana.  When I was carrying an overflowing basket full of laundry a stranger offered me a ride to the laundromat because, as she put it, “she had been there.” Family and friends blessed me with wedding gifts, well wishes and tons of help preparing for the wedding day.

I haven’t done anything to deserve any of these gifts and kindnesses but they are freely given and I’m reminded of God’s love. Of His infinite mercy and goodness and all the gifts, he has poured into my life from the smallest of details like the sweet juiciness of an orange, or the warmth and love from my spouse and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

What examples of radical love have you experienced or seen in your life?

What simple need of a loved one or a stranger can you help meet?

Where is love calling you this day?

2 comments on “On Compassion

  1. Your first quote sounded like a description of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s motto. A good reminder that the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux is doable by all of us! One little act of compassion to one soul can change the world. Be brave and launch into the depths of kindness in imitation of Jesus!

    1. Both of those amazing Saints were on my mind when I wrote this post, thanks for connecting it to them! I wholeheartedly agree the “Little Way” is available to all of us!

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