I've been slammed up against others' suffering recently...
a friend's husband who is showing evidence of dementia
a young mother's intolerable and unremitting struggle with pain
a blogger's report of the high rate of congenital heart defects in Iraqi children
60 Minutes' cellphone videos of the horrific sarin chemical attack in Syria in 2013...
Ignorance seems the preferable choice to preserve my personal peace. But these circumstances intruded into my bubble. Surprising myself, I've wept over people thousands of miles away, and just down the road a piece. Outrage and helplessness have washed over me like waves, threatening to drag me into dark places. I've prayed in the middle of the night for people I know pretty well, and people I'll never meet. I even dreamed I was a Middle Eastern mother trying to smuggle my son to a safe place.
Knowledge of what's happening close to home and afar weighs heavy when the problems are complex and appear hopeless. Rationally I know I am powerless to heal anyone's physical or emotional wounds. But the innate desire to help led me to small steps to at least try to lessen others' grief.
I can pray for my friend to be strong, and encourage her. I can make a dinner for the neighbor crippled by hyper-sensitive nerves that shut her down. I can hold her hand, clean her house.
Syria, Iraq, and other war-ravaged countries are still within my range of influence if I help fund relief efforts. The blog (linked, above) in turn linked me to Preemptive Love, an organization that facilitates training Iraqi doctors and nurses to do pediatric heart surgery. My gifts to a range of other organizations could feed a family for a month or provide support for schooling or job training.
And grim as it was, 60 Minutes report on sarin scrutinized an unsolved atrocity. I can only hope some of our congressmen saw it too, and are persuaded to put pressure on Syria to solve (or confess to) the international crime.
Uncomfortable as it can be, we're linked to the rest of the world by the media. And as part of the 20% of the world not living in poverty, I'm in a position to give time and money. Just writing this makes me ashamed of how little that is, while simultaneously grateful for the choices I have. I want to be mindful of misery so that I am generous, but not hardened.
How have you responded to tragic world, or close-to-home events? Whose compassion do you admire? I'd like to hear.