March 2008 Character Quality -- Compassion
the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
What do you think about when someone mentions names such as Clara Barton or Florence
Nightingale?  A tender, loving hand to soothe the feverish brow of a young man.  Bandaging the
amputated stub of a leg for a boy old enough to die for his country – yet not old enough to
shave.  Braving the horrors of the front lines to bring the wounded back to a place of refuge
even in the midst of perilous firefights.  Sacrificing their time, their rest, their health, and even
their lives for the cause of others less fortunate than themselves.  This is the essence of
compassion:  “Responding to a deep need with a longing to do whatever is necessary to meet

Nearly a hundred years ago, there was a man who known around the world as a concert
organist.  By the time he was in his late 20’s, he had made a name for himself as a musician,
author, and philosopher.  Yet, after a few years, he gave up everything and went back to school
in order to become a medical doctor.  When he graduated, he moved to Africa and established
the Schweitzer Hospital in 1913, where it provides medical care to thousands today.  Albert
Schweitzer left fame, fortune, and a life of ease and comfort financially and socially for no other
reason than “helpfulness to others.”  “One does not have to neglect duties or do spectacular
things.” Albert says, “This career for the spirit I call ‘your second job.’  In doing this, there is no
pay except the privilege of doing it.”  

A second career in compassion can start with some of these things.  Begin to look around at the
hurt and brokenness all around us.  We tend to walk through life thinking that someone else can
take care of others’ needs.  That someone else might be us.  Get to know other people –
outside of your own clique, work partners, or church group.  Many people appear stand-offish
because others have hurt them and they do not want to get hurt again.  We need to make sure
that what we say and do builds the character of others – not embitters their spirit.  

We can have sympathy for someone, but we will not be able to assist until we are
compassionate.  Sympathy is feeling sorry for one who is hurting.  Empathy is knowing what one
is going through and feeling the pain.  But compassion is doing something about that pain.  We
need to reach out to others, assist them in their time of need, and give them a hand up.  We can
show compassion on a daily basis by simply smiling at a tired co-worker.  We can lend an ear
and listen to someone who wants to talk.

Like anything else, we need to use discernment and wisdom in our compassion.  We must make
sure we do not overlook other responsibilities at home, school, or work under the auspices of
‘charitable work.’  In this, we are not showing compassion to those who are counting on us to be
there.  All things must be done decently and in order.

To show compassion is to acknowledge the ideal that America was built on the values of
compassion.  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.  The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.”  This
inscription, engraved on the Statue of Liberty, should also be engraved upon our hearts. Then,
when we see someone hurting, tired, or in need, we will be the ones to come along side and
lend a helping hand.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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