Today I join hands with bloggers around the world to take part in a fantastic initiative.
#1000Speak For Compassion
Today, 20th February, bloggers are doing this:
What does Compassion mean to me?
For me, whenever I hear the word compassion, I recall Henri Nouwen’s provocative essay on the subject. I realized then what a powerful virtue true compassion is. Compassion is not merely kindness. No, it’s putting ourselves in the place of another. Walking in her shoes. Feeling his pain. Looking beyond on the obvious. Reaching out of our comfort zone, to truly ‘be’ with another.
Compassion is hard to practice. But without it, we can no longer be truly human.
Today, I am reminded of one of my childhood heroes, Father Damien, who came to be known as ‘The Apostle of the Lepers’*, and was later canonized to be a saint. Born in Belgium, he became a Catholic priest and was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii. When volunteers were called for to go on a short-term trip to minister to people who had contracted Hansen’s Disease (formerly referred to as ‘leprosy’) and were exiled on the small island of Molokai, Fr Damien signed up.
As you must be aware, leprosy was a most dreaded disease and people were shunned and ostracised. Damien was sent with this warning from his Bishop:You must avoid any form of contagion. If they pass around a pipe [a common cultural occurrence] you must refuse it. Above all, you must not join in meals and eat from the communal pot with your fingers, as others do. Even the saddle that a leper has sat upon must be taboo to you, and I forbid you to sleep in the hut of a ‘leper.’*
Father Damien was deeply moved by the plight of these people, who were literally cast upon this island, abandonded and in dire need of medical, psychological and spiritual attention. He decided to stay on in Molokai. There he ministered to the needs of the people, including empowering them to build houses for themselves and the community. Finally, he himself contracted and died from the effects of leprosy.
This to me embodies true compassion.
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human – Henri Nouwen
The plain fact is that the planet does not need
more successful people.
But it does desperately needs
more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers,
and lovers of every kind.
*We no longer refer to people as lepers, but as suffering from Hansen’s Disease.
What you can do:
Join the initiative. Blog, link and share about compassion.
If you’d like to blog about this and need a prompt, you will find inspiration here.
Go visit this #1000Speak link to find and links to posts of all the voices speaking for compassion today.
Like #1000Speak on Facebook
If you’re not a blogger, please read, comment and share as many links as you can on social media with the hashtag #1000Speak.