Disqualified to Speak on Compassion

AVATAR pencil sketch w:sunglasses:facing right
I’VE BEEN ASKED TO SPEAK about compassion . . . in the very week I have struggled with the topic. I guess I need to stop turning away from thinking about this week’s particular frustration and instead turn around and take a closer look at it.

Just what I was trying to avoid.

There are moments, as a speaker, where I feel disqualified because no matter how worthy I believe something is, I can’t claim to have enthusiasm 100% of the time. I grow tired. I get frustrated. I wonder how I got involved in the first place.

So when the request to speak comes at the end of a week when my Compassion Meter is registering low and I feel only 80% as compassionate as I wish to be – okay, maybe 50%, maybe less – I feel they should go ask someone else. I have nothing to give. I’m the wrong person. My only expertise at the moment is in the challenges to compassion. I keep trying to change gears, but I’ve made a half-dozen starts and ended up deleting them all.

I decided to stop swimming against the current.

I made another start, but this time it was to make a list of the times I’ve been ready to give up and the reasons. It felt like I was going in the wrong direction for an inspirational talk. But as I thought about them, I began to remember, in each case, what I did next. What emerged had the makings a good talk about the challenges and how to navigate them, because there are real challenges. Being a person of compassion is a lot more than having a sympathetic feeling toward a person in need. There just might be someone at the gathering who needs to hear that more than what he is expecting to hear – a rah-rah pep talk. It might be more practical and useful, and in the end more fortifying.

Posted in compassion, obstacle | 2 Comments

Giving Up Labels for Lent

AVATAR pencil sketch w:sunglasses:facing rightI GAVE UP LABELS for Lent. Labels on people. I know it doesn’t sound like a big thing, certainly not up to the level of sacrifice. But in February I felt particularly worn out. There were rants, big and small,  from all different sides. One thing they all had in common was the lumping together of people under headings

It was like we had fallen back on a bad habit, like we had grown lazy in our thinking and in our ability to see a person behind the sticker we’d slapped on them.

Labels can be useful, yes, but in this age of serious disunity that keeps ratcheting up, I felt a strong need to step back from the fray. AND not to contribute to it.

I’m not much of a label-user (no, it’s all those OTHER people out there), so this wasn’t a particularly hard challenge, nothing near so difficult as giving up snacking, for example. Still, there were a few times I caught myself.  It was good for me to see that. Also, as the weeks went along and I encountered labels in what I was reading or hearing, I found myself stopping and pondering, “Now how would I have reworded that?”

I was waiting for Easter to pass to mention this. Now you know the truth. I tend to hold things close before sharing them. I’m one of THOSE PEOPLE.

Posted in Lent, words I'm eliminating | 1 Comment

After Hearing A Friend’s Devastating News


I thought by now I’d know what to say,
knowing by heart these woods
and the path,
its straightaways and curves,
rises and dips,
places where the surest of footing
can be lost,
and the questions –
the endless questions –
to which there are no magic answers.

There is just
hanging in there,
putting one foot in front of the other.

I feel I should have more to give.
Instead I rush
with empty pockets,
full heart, wordless,
to say
the answers can only be known
by walking it out.
Oh! And one more thing,
I am willing to walk it with you,
at whatever distance works best.

Posted in compassion, friendship, intentional relating, Uncategorized | 1 Comment