Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Merriam-Webster defines compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This means that if you see someone in need you not only feel bad for them, but want to help as well. I don’t know about you, but I was raised to have compassion for others, and I have tried to raise my children the same way. Unfortunately, over the years I have noticed a basic lack of compassion in our society today.

I asked my son, who is a sophomore in high school, about the kids in his school, and how they treat each other. The response I got back was alarming. He said there is not only an absence of consideration for their fellow students, but an outright indifference and sometimes meanness. So I asked myself why? Why is it that the news is overrun with people hurting, stealing from, scamming and killing one another? Well, here’s just a few things I think are part of the problem, just sayin’.

First of all, we live in a “me first” society. The media tells us it is okay to think about ourselves first. When shopping for my daughter, the clothes, notebooks, and other accessories are overwhelmed with phases such as “Princess”, “Diva” and “It’s all about me!” Do I think this is the problem? No, but I don’t think it helps. Our culture also seems to idolize pseudo celebrities like the Hiltons and Kardashians, who are famous for nothing more than being young, rich and attractive. Celebrities who are well known not for their contributions to society, but for their bad behavior, greed, and excess lifestyles are the ones that are making headlines. They get put on the covers of magazines and given reality television shows.

There is also a breakdown of community. People do not know their neighbors anymore. There is a “I’ll mind my business, you mind yours” mentality. It used to be that neighborhoods were communities. People knew each other, took care of one another. When you don’t take the time to get to know the elderly lady down the road, how will you know if she needs a ride to the doctor? It may not seem like much, but to her it means everything. Today people tend to see themselves as individuals and not part of a greater whole. This way of thinking leads to selfishness, intolerance and a lack of compassion.

So how do we change this? I don’t have all the answers, but I will tell you what I tell my kids. First and foremost, follow the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would have others treat you. I know it’s an oldie, but it is still relevant. Second, have courage. Standing up and doing the right thing is not always easy. When you see someone who is in need, and everyone else is looking the other way, it is easy to also just look the other way. Be brave, do what you know is right and help. And lastly, give until it hurts. Compassion is also about sacrifice. Sometimes it requires more than you want to give of yourself. My Nana always said that if you are giving something you don’t want, then you are not truly giving. Yes, it’s not always convenient to help others, but in my experience, it is always worth it.

Is there a lot wrong with our society today? Sure, but as Ernest Heminway once said, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for...” I’m just sayin’.

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