Lessons in Compassion

Written on: June 26, 2018

I have the good fortune to have access to the swimming pool that is part of the apartment complex where I live and this means that on the weekend, I can often enjoy a few hours of total relaxation poolside. One of the best aspects of this recreation is the opportunity to watch children playing, interacting with each other and with their parents and other adults.

The joy!

Recently, I watched one young boy try again and again and again to swim back and forth the width of the pool so that the lifeguard would allow him to go into the deep end of the pool. That is the standard test and our lifeguard is, understandably, very strict. Another child’s father worked with this youngster – teaching him the strokes that would propel him and how to take enough breath each time he came up from the water. All of which helped, but not enough. Was the boy crestfallen and ready to give up? No way!  And the other child’s father continued to work with him and integrate him into games with his own daughter, who was, incidentally, a great swimmer. It was beautiful to witness.

We are capable of so much goodness! I see it every day – where I live, where I work, even on the news, though not often enough. (Goodness doesn’t always count as “news” apparently) I see people help the family down the street get the wheelchair with someone’s son off the bus and up the stairs to their house. I see the management at the grocery store treat with such respect an employee whose social skills are limited.

Because I have seen such goodness, such compassion, such honest–to-God caring for others, I am especially distraught to hear of what seems to me to be the opposite.

I know that fear, scarce resources, and one’s own feelings of being left out or judged unworthy can lead us to jealousy, righteousness, selfishness, and even hatred of “the other”.  So, I am trying not to judge those who see foreigners as the enemy and the reason for unemployment among native born Americans. I am trying to understand rather than be angry with those who believe that taking children away from parents who cross our borders, even those seeking asylum, is simply the best solution for what they see as a terrifying influx of immigrants, and therefore, perfectly legitimate and praiseworthy.

At Catholic Mass on Sunday morning, we heard a reading from the New Testament where Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like the seed of the mustard bush. The seed is so tiny, yet the plant that grows from it is big enough to provide nesting places for many, many birds. So, we are encouraged to think of how and when and where we are called to plant tiny seeds on behalf of the kingdom of God – a kingdom that is all about goodness, forgiveness, inclusivity, caring, compassion.

I have been working for the last nine years with wounded women – women who have suffered from sexual exploitation, women who have been trafficked or pimped, women who have been labeled prostitutes and sent to prison, women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, women who have been used and abused by numerous men. We try to plant seeds to help these women heal, have their self-esteem restored, learn ways to cope with the trauma they have endured.

But there are so many places and people who need our care and our compassion. I want to reach out to them, too. Some may not speak my language or share my religious beliefs; and many I will never know, never meet.  By advocating for them with those who hold power over policy, to those who make the laws and also the exceptions to law, I can plant tiny seeds.

So can you.

How and when and where are you called to plant tiny seeds to grow into something noticeably full of goodness and joy?


Sister Eileen White, GNSH is a frequent contributor to From a Faith Perspective in the Bucks County Courier Times. This article is reprinted with their permission. Sister Eileen has ministered in Peru, and at Dawn’s Place in Philadelphia, with a few other stops along the way.


3 thoughts on “Lessons in Compassion

  1. Mary Karen says:

    Beautifully expressed, Eileen! Thanks.

  2. Joanne Cornell says:

    A beautifully penned message which so many of us carry close in our hearts, share with our communities and at times shout from the “roof tops” of the internet. God be with us.

  3. Joanne Cornell says:

    Beautifully penned words that so many of us hold close in our hearts, shared with our communities and even shouted from the “roof-tops “of our internet! May we walk with God.

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