On Compassion

On Compassion

Not writing/book related, but something I needed to say.

This week, I learned that a beloved coworker passed away.  It was unexpected–but also not–and brought up a whole flurry of thoughts and emotions about compassion and how we show it–or not–to others.

I sat 10 feet from my friend for 8 years.  We bantered back and forth throughout the day, everyday.  Her position allowed her to be something of a renaissance woman and because we worked in a school, she was often the first person to greet an anxious family or a crying child as they came into our office.  She was well known among students, parents, faculty, alumni, community members and random visitors because she loved everyone.  She treated every single person with the same unfailing kindness and had a special place in her heart for the kids who seemed to need a little extra attention.  She had a wicked sense of humor, would argue with anyone about her favorite sports teams, was a voracious reader of all books, and refused to get a cell phone until about a year ago because she just didn’t see the point.

Seeing her empty desk makes my heart fold in on itself every time I walk past it now.  Not only because I miss her terribly, but because, as is often the case with people we love, she was battling personal demons, more than she ever let on.  And there were people in her life who either chose to ignore her struggles or who consciously made them worse for her.  To find this out after the fact has broken my heart so many times this week.  I wish there was more I could have done for her, but I am at peace knowing without a doubt that she knew I cared about her.

I guess the point of my saying this is to remind myself that compassion is important.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, even when it makes you uncomfortable, can make a lifetime of difference for someone else.  You don’t often know what kind of home an acquaintance/coworker/friend goes to each night, or what kind of family they came from, or what happened to them in their pasts.  Many people only show you what they want you to see.  But if you show someone compassion no matter what, if you demonstrate that you care about them, then even for a few minutes they will feel loved and important.  And those moments could change someone’s life.

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