You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘compassion’ tag.

Last month, I had some visiting nurses taking care of me, and I was always glad to see them. Along with my medical check-ups, I noticed they had to do a lot of paperwork.

As a former secretary, I suggested that an office coordinator could help them with administrative tasks. They said they didn’t have an administrative specialist, so they ended up spending part of our visits on tasks such as documenting, ordering equipment, and scheduling appointments.

If you’re like me, well… lucky you! 🙂 I jest, of course. But if you’re like me, you want to take care of everybody. Especially if they’re taking care of you. This isn’t bad, of course, unless you end up depleting yourself in the process.

It occurred to me: How do we learn self-care? It really isn’t taught in school or at home by example. I heard someone talking about a friend who had passed away, and she said, “She put everyone else first.” I used to think that was a good thing. Now, I’m not saying you should be self-absorbed and obnoxious. Just that in order to live your best life, you have to put yourself on the list. In fact, your needs should be right at the top. You can’t draw from an empty well. If you’re replenishing everyone around you to the exclusion of your own sustenance, that’s a moment to stop. If you can’t find yourself anywhere on your to-do list for the day, it’s time for a checklist check-up.

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A news segment on airline mechanics who feel pressured to hurry through repairs or not do a thorough job was really eye-opening. Reporter Gayle King commented, ”It’s amazing how much trust we have in people we don’t know to do their jobs well.” But even when we realize we can’t do the job, we still need to eat. Pay for minor sundries like heat and electricity. And pay the note on the car that gets us to the job we can’t do anymore but don’t know why.

Then there are the choices we have to make when there is no other choice.

Like the length of time it took me to realize that I couldn’t see well enough anymore to get behind the wheel and drive. Then one day, I was coming out of my garage and said “Hi!” to my neighbor on his porch across the street, only to realize it wasn’t my neighbor at all. It was a life-sized scarecrow sitting in a rocking chair that they’d put on the porch as a Halloween decoration.

Okay. This has to stop, I told myself. But with that choice, a host of other daily choices were spawned. With no source of transportation once I took myself off the road, I’d have to rely on family and friends when they were available, but they had their own obligations. I ended up using a paid rideshare to get around.

Look into the eyes of the people you meet today. The ones who deliver your mail. Ring up your groceries. If the cashier gives you the wrong change, it may be because they’re dealing with pain you can’t see and are working through it. You’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Being patient with other human beings is the point of being human.

The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

On the one hand, giving labels with letters to conditions like ADHD or OCD helps people. It gives insight on how to manage it.

On the other, it’s limiting. Here’s what you can do, but more tellingly: HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN’T DO.

If it’s ADHD: You can’t sit still. You can’t focus.

OCD: You can’t stop doing repetitive behaviors. You can’t override your wiring.

I’m not an expert in this field, but could that be the thing to focus on?

You can’t override your wiring. Well, you can take a pill. Get counseling. But maybe, if you can’t beat em, should you join ‘em?

When I gave one of my son’s friends with ADHD a project he was interested in, I’ve never seen better focus. He was all in. But when he was without a specific goal, he tended to touch everything. He moved constantly. Once, he put his hand into a pan that was sitting on the stove. “Don’t do that! What if it was hot?”

“It wasn’t,” he said. “Just checking.”

“Don’t check with your hands, son,” I said. But it was too late. He was touching everything else in the house.

I realized that he’s a tactile learner. He takes in the world using his hands. He’s gathering data. Processing it all.

If there were such a job, I think he’d be a great Reverse Inventor. He could tell you how something works by taking it apart, examining it and putting it back together, perhaps in a different configuration.

It’s only fitting you should be who God made you. Work around the aspects of your condition that hold you back. Get help and treatment, if possible. But also, why not write a letter to yourself? A reminder to give yourself a break and your soul some TLC.

Rough chop can have various meanings, depending on who’s saying it.

A French chef saying, “You’ll just want to do a rough chop of your vegetables for this stew” is one thing. If the pilot says on the overhead speaker, “We’re in for some rough chop ahead”, that’s a whole different story.

Tension isn’t always a bad thing. It’s necessary if you’re playing a guitar. Or knitting.

And pressure isn’t always a negative thing. In the shower, with shampoo in your hair, you want strong water pressure. But when it comes to the human psyche, it’s a whole different story.

Did you ever wonder about those friends of yours that you only see once in a blue moon? Doesn’t it seem like they’ve fallen off the face of the Earth? It could be that they need to re-charge their batteries after reaching a threshold of sorts. It’s probably not you. It’s the whole human circus of sights, sounds, smells. Personalities. Interactions. Micro-aggressions. Traffic jams.

I know for a fact that I ghost people, even people I love. My psyche says it’s time to hibernate. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means some sort of relief valve has tripped, and for the sanctity of my soul, for the sanity of my mind, I have to decompress. De-escalate. Disconnect. Even from dear friends. It releases the internal build-up of steam so I don’t reach the point of melt down.

You wouldn’t say to a bear, Where have you been? You’ve been a no-show all winter! That’s what she has to do to survive.

What if, just for today, we showed up for the ones who never show up? We’ve got your back till you get back. Once you know the facts behind the facade, it’s a whole different story.

I knew it was time to take down a perfectly good bathroom cabinet. My visual issues are such that I no longer have depth perception. I just can’t see the edges of things until I bump into them. That cabinet was a concussion waiting to happen.

So we took it down, and to my surprise, behind it, found a small patch of old wallpaper. Huh. It must be from the house’s previous owners, some 25 years ago.

It’s got rows of elephants, festooned in gold, red and black, marching in formation. They even seem to be wearing hats and shoes!

It occurred to me that SueBE would think of this as an interesting archaeological dig and excavate the facts until she determined who put up that wallpaper. She could probably even figure out what era the artwork was from.

Lori would see the poetry in the henna-red, dancing elephants. She’d find a spiritual metaphor in their perfect symmetry and solidarity.

When I look at it, I find the humor in it. “I hope the ones in front of me know where they’re going, cuz I’m plum lost!” Or maybe this animal team is the pachyderm version of the Rockettes. The Trunkettes?

Seeing through other people’s eyes is the key to community. Also compassion. Sometimes even comedy. I like this tiny swatch of history and humor so much that I’ve decided to leave it up on the wall. It’s a way to do what’s right for me (take down the cabinet so I don’t bump into it) and to enjoy a quirky artifact. Sure, it’s got a few flaws and dings, but don’t we all? Yep. I think it’s a keeper.

What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

What if empathy was a finite resource that only existed in a fraction of the population? Imagine what would happen if the ones designated as caretakers of compassion went on strike. Or their kindness soured into cynicism. What would become of humanity then?

I’m concerned that compassion will be elbowed out eventually, especially since those in charge seem unwilling or unable to model it. The younger generation is growing up at a time in which “Instagram Influencer” is an actual job. We’ve even learned to condense our coarse critiques into 140 characters.

Now tell me, when did we decide as a society that pulling pranks was “all in good fun?”  This “heartwarming” (not to mention “housewarming,” but in a bad way)  video of a firefighter fooling his girlfriend into thinking their house was on fire so he could propose to her is (as all of our fathers used to say, say it with me now:) everything that’s wrong with the world today.

If I were that woman, not only would I refuse that marriage proposal, I’d throw my now-ex-boyfriend in jail for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention misuse of tax dollars. Of course, then social media would obliterate me for being a spoil-sport, I’m sure. I can’t even believe this needs to be said, but here goes. Terrifying someone you love is not kind.

A different video of a child in China who walked to school in weather so cold that his hair froze caused an outpouring of kindness. And this one of a stranger who drove 2300 miles to return a family dog to this sick boy shows that focusing on the positive is the antidote for negativity. Despite everything wrong with the world today, there’s still hope for humanity.

Photo by Matt Collamer on UnsplashShowing up as someone other than your true self can be wearing.

As long as I can remember (!) I’ve had trouble remembering things I’ve done, people I’ve met, conversations we’d had. So I learned to make up for it with humor and this unrelenting cheerfulness that has become a lifelong habit. In my 20s, I’d use the phrase, I had a senior moment there! when I’d forget basic things. Co-workers would laugh and say, You’re too young to have those! and the infraction would be forgiven.

If I’d said, I don’t know why I can’t remember anything, and to be honest, it’s kind of upsetting, it would’ve gotten a moment of discussion or a shoulder shrug, but you could only do that so often. People would assume you weren’t applying yourself, or were just not that bright.

So most of the time I would flip a switch and turn into this upbeat version of myself, which meant I was always presenting a persona instead of being who I am. I needed to write lists of every task. Not a general to-do list, but pages of what I needed to do, checked off as I went. If it wasn’t documented there, I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d done it.

It was only after I was diagnosed with MS that I realized there was a reason for my forgetfulness.

It made me wonder: What is it we don’t know about the people with whom we interact? Is everybody grappling with something? It’s possible that someone in your life right now is feeling this way, but doesn’t know how to express it, or where to turn to make it better.

Maybe we’ll never know what others are going through. Assuming there’s a story might be enough for our collective compassion to kick in.

With all the church abuse scandals in the news recently, New Jersey’s attorney general has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in our state. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” said Gurbir Grewal.

Where have I seen that name recently? Oh yeah. Hosts of a radio show had courted controversy by referring to the attorney general as “Turban Man.” Grewal responded with aplomb, thanking the governor for his support during the episode, noting, “Others have faced far worse. We rise above this.  Now let’s get back to business.”

Maybe pain is training. Compassion calibration. A way to learn from the inside of the “ouch” what it feels like so that, when your turn comes to give someone else a break, you’ll stand up.

I remember a Sikh boy from grade school. It wasn’t always easy for him, as you might imagine, even though his wearing a turban was harming no one.

Childhood itself shouldn’t be a high-risk proposition, but really, where can kids be safe anymore?

School? Yes but. School shootings.

Church? Yes but. Pedophile priests.

Home? Yes but. Kids are more like property than people in society today. They have no say most of the time. Just what parents decide is best for them.

Change can only come from the inside. Of the school. Of the church. Of the person. Until there’s a change inside the human heart, the chain of pain will continue.

It irks me not to be able to wrap up neatly with an answer to this problem. Yes but. All I can change is myself. All you can change is yourself. So we’ll do our best today. Assume the best in others. Let them rise to our high expectations. Maybe it will be the start a new chain – of love.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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