An engine lurches and mutters to a halt. It’s so dark outside, the night is like obsidian, but I see dim headlights and a bobbing flashlight as a man tries to open the hood to the engine of his logging truck. The Hub puts on shoes and a jacket to go outside and help a stranger broke down in the night.
My friend is a retired Navy photographer. She tells people she had it easy. “Not like you,” she says to the Army soldier seated in front of her. He’s completed two tours of duty in Iraq and is reluctant to admit he has trouble sleeping. My friend pokes acupuncture needles in both his ears to reduce “stress.” No one mentions the P-word that can mar a soldier’s career. Yet the auricular acupuncture offered regularly, helps. My friend volunteers every other Wednesday at Fort Snelling and has not missed a day in seven years.
I hired a dynamic young woman to take over the education and outreach at my organization. At her first community outreach meeting, which she would take over eventually, she listens to a donation request made by the friend of a woman who is pregnant and battling breast cancer. “Please, can the co-op help her buy some healthy food.” I look over at my new hire and know I made the right choice. Tears stream down her face as she nods, yes.
Online, I follow a local social media group for news on jobs or postings for trades. A woman posts the comment, “I have a question please. Am I the only one on these Facebook sites that finds it offensive when people sadly have a tragedy in their lives.” I want to answer, I hope you are the only one! How can another person’s tragedy be offensive? Why is it, not all people can feel compassion.
What is compassion?
Although my handy-dandy (American) dictionary defines compassion as “sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others” it also defines pity with the same phrase. However, the important differentiation is that compassion is “accompanied by an urge to help” whereas pity “sometimes connotes slight contempt because the object is regarded as weak or inferior.”
To me, the woman with the question felt pity for “people [who] sadly have tragedy” because she felt contempt for how they asked for help or handled their donations. A person in need is not an inferior human. Even a person who makes mistakes or misjudgements or lacks compassion (like this woman with a question) is not inferior.
Compassion is kind. It is merciful. It is loving. It is not withheld for the privileged few. It can even extend to horses and peat moss and all of life.
Rough Writers, Norah Colvin and Anne Goodwin, introduce us to two words that extend from compassion. Weltschmerz: “world pain” or the grief we feel at how the world keeps falling short of our expectations. Meliorism: having a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans. Anne sums up the interaction of the two words:
“Both are useful: weltschmerz enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong and meliorism driving us to try to do something about it.”
That is what compassion looks like in action. Yet, another compassionate action is taking hold — #1000Speak. It is a call for 1000 voices blogging for compassion on February 20. When I think of compassionate bloggers, I think of another Rough Writer, Ruchira Khanna who writes an inspirational blog with daily mantras at Abracabadra. Imagine a concerted effort by bloggers in one day to write with words that make a difference in the lives of others!
This is what it looks like in a video created by Tamara Woods who encourages us to “break the internet with compassion”:
So this week we will tackle stories that reveal compassion. In addition to our compilation, I will link to it in my own #1000Speak post on February 20. When spreading your own stories or posts, use the hashtag for greater visibility.
February 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that demonstrates compassion. You can explore weltschmerz (enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong) and meliorism (driving us to try to do something about it) if you want to explore those specific terms. Consider posting on February 20, too.
Respond by February 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Her Worth by Charli Mills
The old mare hung her head low, lips quivered above grass-forsaken dirt, ribs protruded beneath a swayed back. She was broken.
“How much you want for her,” asked the Fed Ex driver.
A lean cowboy scrawled his signature for his box. “That nag?”
“That our wine?” A beautiful woman stepped out onto the deck.
The cowboy winked at the Fed Ex man. “There’s a beauty worth buying.”
“Can’t afford that one. How much for the horse?”
He knew his boss would ask how a starving mare got into the back of his van, but already her ears had perked.
Ranch-keeping for Rough Writers: I’m working on how to communicate my ideas for the collaboration. Bear with me as I seek my words. And, I can use an Amazon widget for the bookstore, but it’s an affiliate thing so I’m trying to verify that I would be helping you in book sales, not robbing you! That would be embarrassing to this buckaroo. But I like the idea of populating the page with the ability to purchase the books rather than link to Amazon. Is there anyone with a preference or who is not selling on Amazon?
Look for my first Rodeo post tomorrow! I purchased a real bull-riding photo (as if that’s going to help my cause for publication). Of course, I still believe in me lucky charms if you care to step over Elmira Pond Spotter and take a peek at my peat.