I've been wanting to write about empathy and compassion for a couple of weeks. I keep seeing headlines in popular media that refer to the "decline of empathy in America", especially in response to the public actions of a certain political candidate and some of his supporters. I want to challenge any statements suggesting our nation is lacking empathy, or is losing empathy. I'm seeing exactly the opposite over here. Recently, I've realized how many amazingly kind and compassionate people I know. People who won't hesitate to offer kindness in times of trouble; people who will rush to help others in need with full, genuine hearts; people whose love you can feel radiating outward wherever they go. <3
If you're reading this, you are most definitely one of those people.
And as far as I'm concerned, *your* empathy and compassion is enough to let me know there's more than enough love to go around, even if many others are lacking.
I want to let you know how valuable you are, because sometimes we forget. I am grateful to have been reminded today of my own compassionate nature by a fellow kind soul, and I hope to share and pass on that reminder to you.
Compassion in the midst of stress
It's been a stressful time at my teaching job: midterm week. I teach math to 110 college students, many of whom are struggling in their classes and worried about their grades. I generally do my best to support students who are in need of my help, but sometimes it can get very busy and stressful. I found myself very ill over the weekend for the second time this season, due to stress and working too hard. As I recovered, I decided I needed to approach life with a softer heart, not caring so much about all the tasks that needed completing, but focusing my priority on being with Spirit, and extending a kind heart to myself and others.
I immediately saw a reflection of that intention today when one of my students came to see me for a study session. This student, whom I'll call "Lily", had been going through a lot of personal challenges and was feeling very intimidated by the difficulty of my course, which was required for her degree. Lily had come to me twice in the semester feeling helpless and telling me she wasn't going to be able to learn the material. But I saw her desire to work hard and succeed, and I urged her to stay in the course, promising to help her pass as long as she was willing to try.
When Lily came to see me today, she expressed gratitude for my help. Specifically, she said "I'm thankful for your compassion," with repeated emphasis on the word compassion.
It was surprising and powerful to hear how much someone was valuing my compassion when truth be told, I haven't particularly been paying attention to that quality in myself lately.
Lily and I ended up in a deep discussion about how important compassion is in our world, where we see so much violence and inhumanity occurring on a daily basis. She revealed to me that she was deeply spiritual, and in response to having faced adversity, has turned around and become even more loving and kind. It was a moving and incredibly healing conversation. I could tell that Lily herself was incredibly compassionate by the way her kindness and goodwill radiated out of her in every word she spoke.
Our most valuable resource
Lily reminded me that compassion is more important than anything we attach value to in our everyday lives. Money, hard work, achievement... none of these things really matter when we realize our need for compassion above all things. We need compassion to solve our problems of global violence and social injustice. Sure, we need other things too, but without compassion, all of our resources will be useless.
I'm grateful that Lily passed on to me this reminder of how important compassion is in ourselves and others. And it was also a reminder that compassion and empathy are both alive and well in our world, we just need to be aware of it and value it.
I extend my heart to you, in hopes that you'll find some time to value your own compassion, and see it reflected around you in others. I hope to be one of those reflections and a source of support - if you're ever in need of prayer, sympathy or a kind gesture, please don't hesitate to reach out and my heart will be there with you.