Compassion: “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow who is stricken with misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (Dictionary).
I want to instill in Abby (and Bridget) what compassion is and is not. Sadly so many of us, myself included, forget the second half of the definition.
We fell sorry for people all the time. It starts most of our sentences when a friend is going through a rough patch.
“I’m sorry you lost your mom/dad/grandparent/etc…”
“I’m sorry Bridget has to work so hard”
“I’m sorry that a terrorist decimated a village”
“I’m sorry you are having a difficult time”
“I’m sorry Abby is feeling overwhelmed with Every Day Math”
“I’m sorry that crime is so rampant in your neighborhood”
Compassion gets confused with regret. We forget that to truly feel compassion, we have to want to alleviate the suffering. We have to do more than the definition of a “strong desire to alleviate” and actually do something. Anything. My New Year’s resolution was to continue paying it forward, to thank all those who truly showed me what compassion meant. Feeling sorry that Bridget was so sick and I was so overwhelmed. They couldn’t alleviate her suffering, but they could mine. Countless (and I mean countless, I forget exactly who and how many) friends showed up and did little things (to them) that made our lives so much easier.
They took their desire to alleviate my suffering (insignificant, really in the grand scheme of things) and obliterated it.
Everyone needs to be the recipient of compassion. What they are going through might not seem significant “in the grand scheme of things”. I can hardly count the times I have heard, I shouldn’t complain look at what you go through. Truthfully, I don’t go through any more or less than any of you. I’m just out in the open about it.
Because someone doesn’t express their need or minimize it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Whatever you are handling it is huge in this moment. This moment, what you are feeling, what you are going through matters just as much as what the person in the house next to you may be experiencing.
A group of bloggers, myself included, decided to make February 20th Compassion Day. A thousand of us are determined to fill the internet, Facebook, Twitter and (insert favorite social media here) with stories of compassion, kindness, non-judgment and a general caring for others. Being a member of a village of 1,000 writers who are sharing their stories is a beautiful experience.
The best part is, you do not have to be a writer to participate. YOU can participate, right now, by showing an act of compassion to another. It’s simple, really, and not expensive. Donate a can of food to a shelter. Buy that mom in the restaurant a glass of wine. Tip the waitress a little more than usual. Walk a little slower so your friend can catch up. Buy that older gentleman in line behind you at Dunkin Donuts a coffee. Call a friend and instead of asking them to let them know what they need, tell them you are making them cookies or taking their daughter for a play date. Take the time to listen to the friend who is venting, not to solve their problem but to let them know they are being heard.
The one thing compassion is not is inaction. Compassion means you want to do something, anything, to help a person who is suffering. That suffering could be hunger or it could be despair. It could simply mean a lack of sleep. It could just being kind to someone who needs a smile.
Are you with me in going beyond the sorrow and to the action? Are you ready to act not just on February 20th but every day? Tell me your ideas on how we can spread compassion. The little and the big. .