com·pas·sion noun \kəm-ˈpa-shən\
: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it
My heart’s desire is to develop more compassion. I know that I try to find words that others are familiar with to discuss on Wednesdays. However, after polling an audience (read: my facebook friend’s list), I realized that not many people had a definition for compassion. Sure, many people know examples of compassion. But nobody could tell me what they thought compassion really meant.
For me? Compassion is seeing someone’s pain and going to extraordinary, at times, lengths in order to help fix it. It isn’t the sort of fixing that works as a band-aid either. Compassion isn’t helping to stick a finger into a leaky dam. It would be easy for anyone to just do something to temporarily mask a problem for someone else. Actually, that sort of thought process is typically in our favor. If we can stop someone from complaining than we can tolerate them a little longer.
But, compassion builds a bridge between two hearts. It is identifying someone’s significant pain and distress, and putting yourself in a position of vulnerability in order to help.
Working at Pleasant Vineyard Ministries Camp helped me to understand compassion differently. Many of the kids were from well-to-do families, mind you, they were being sent off to camp for the summer. But, since it was a camp that was supported by churches, but not a church camp, there were plenty of times that kids were just sent away to do something, anything, to get them out of the house for a week in the summer.
The hardest requirement for me was the vulnerability that I had to exhibit in order to effectively witness at all. One camper I had was Marianna, she spoke very little English (read: next to none). She was in a cabin of rambunctious girls who had some interesting personalities. Throw in a girl that is submerged into an environment where she can’t effectively communicate, and you can see why the situation would grow precarious.
But, something very certain was required of me. I had to be a sieve for God’s love in order to minister to her. I had to accept that my obedience would be met by God’s faithfulness. And that terrified me. I have a few trust issues, but believing that God would meet my needs when I stepped out on faith–it was a prerequisite to this week of summer camp.
And, something beautiful happened. Though we never understood one another fully, she taught me words in Russian. Though we never held lengthy conversations about God, I still got a card from her in her best attempt at broken English. And by the end of the week, she could smile and feel at ease. Because she had to be stretched, and I had to be stretched. In order to meet her needs of fear and fright, I had to push past my frustration and confusion and choose love.
That’s what these next 365 days are about in my compassion campaign. Choosing love over everything else. Believing, fully, that love changes the world.