The definition that Character First/Strata Leadership gives for Compassion is “Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others with the explanation that to be compassionate is to be there to help others at their point of need.”
Merriam Webster defines Compassion as a sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
Whichever meaning you prefer, both definitions acknowledge acting with Compassion requires a person to think and feel beyond themselves. Compassion means putting another person and their needs ahead of our own. Compassion is to see another person in need or struggling or in pain and offer them assistance and understanding.
One of the most famous acts of Compassion comes from the story of the Good Samaritan who saw a stranger injured and bleeding on the side of the road and stopped to care for the stranger in the moment without hesitation and then took him to receive care until the stranger could care for himself. The Samaritan even paid in advance for the care the stranger would receive.
That is a complete act of Compassion. The Good Samaritan helped a stranger who was of a different race and nationality without questioning who he was and why he was in the predicament he was he. Compassion was demonstrated through tending to the needs of the unknown injured man.
We all have opportunities every day to offer Compassion. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone how they are and taking the time to really listen to what they say. It isn’t our job to fix the person or to solve their problem or to save them from their situation.
I’m fortunate to work at OpenTable Community Café. I experience acts of Compassion frequently. I once saw a person giving the coat off their back to a stranger who didn’t have one. I have witnessed people finding AND installing a water heater for someone who didn’t have the resources to replace their broken one in the middle of winter. I’ve seen people donate food and money so others who are total strangers with limited resources could eat.
If you look and watch people, you too will witness acts of Compassion. If you look and pay attention, you will see someone in need and you can be the one to offer Compassion. You have a choice – to offer an act of love or to be indifferent to the needs of others.
This month, may each of us take the time to see the people around us and act with Compassion – even to the stranger or the person who is seen as being different.