1000 Voices Speak for Compassion
Compassion is sometimes hard to put your finger on. It so often goes under the radar.
My mother keeps blessings bags (a mini care package for the homeless) in her car for stoplight panhandlers. They contain snacks and directions to a church where they can receive additional benefits.
My brother and sister-in-law for years fostered dogs that no one else would take; old dogs, dogs with health issues, dogs with behavior issues. They trained those dogs, nursed those dogs, loved those dogs, and found those dogs homes; sometimes in their own home.
My mother-in-law is the primary caregiver for my father-in-law, sent home from the hospital with a PICC line and drainage tube. Every 6 hours (for an hour or two), she administers his IV medications; flushing lines, cleaning pieces, hanging bags. She is a bastion of round-the-clock care.
In large and small ways, these people, who I am lucky enough to have in my life, embody compassion. They don’t do what they do because they woke up one day and decided to be compassionate for a lark. They do it because there was a need and they filled it.
Compassion is not always a conscious decision. Sometimes opportunities for compassion are thrust upon us. Taking up that mantle is what makes a compassionate person.
I want my children to be compassionate people. As a parent, I feel it’s my job to give them opportunities to practice compassion; donating their gently used toys to Goodwill, making shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, or putting their coins in a donation jar. These are good lessons, but they are easy motions to go through. They do not ensure that my children are thinking about the person or child on the other end of that gesture.
For that reason, I’ve started my “Are you ok?” campaign with my kids. About 20 times a day my children offend each other in some way; she pushed me, he took my pencil, he looked at me funny. The perceived and legitimate infractions are endless. We are finally at a point when saying “I’m sorry” is pretty rote, and that’s good, but it’s also flat and often one-sided.
I’ve started having the kids follow that up with, “Are you ok?” When kids say they are sorry, it’s often just to get themselves off the hook. They usually walk away after that. “Are you ok?” makes them stick around a half second longer and consider the other person. It’s good practice in compassion and I’m hoping someday they will consider the other person before the infraction and make a different choice.
This was written in response to the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion campaign to flood the internet with stories of compassion on February 20, 2015.