By Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM Ireland 31.03.2022
I never learnt Latin, but knowledge of Latin is very useful when you begin to look at the word compassion. In English, it is often mixed up with pity. When I pity someone, I put myself in a position of superiority over the poor unfortunate who is not as well off or as healthy as myself.
Com – passion is different. ‘Com’ means we are in this together. What affects you, affects me. ‘Passion’ is more related to suffering. When you suffer, I suffer too. I think that is why a compassionate response to the Covid-19 pandemic is to vaccinate the whole world, not just my little patch of a country
Some years back I was taught a lesson in compassion from one of my co-workers in the Consolation Project in Salvador, Brazil. This was an initiative we started in response to women who had children assassinated. One day we were expecting a small group of women to come for art therapy. But it was mid-summer and it was pouring rain. It was a heavy tropical rain storm. But the women came anyway, huddled in shawls and protected as best as they could. Rita met Dona Maria at the door. She was dripping wet. “Come in”, she said, grabbing a towel. Then Rita knelt down on the floor and dried Maria’s legs and feet. It was such a simple gesture, but that was compassion in action.
Many years ago, Sr. Ann Ward, one of our Sister Doctors who worked for many years in Nigeria put it this way: “Compassion puts the two of you on the same level, enabling you to work together to change the situation, or at least to make it more bearable.”
Today I am asking God to make me a more compassionate person.