Having A Heart Of Compassion
Scientists believe that compassion is a natural instinct in adults and even in babies. In a recent study, they found that infants' pupils would dilate when they saw someone in need, and shrink when that person was helped.
The Bible is replete with stories of compassion, especially on the part of Jesus. On one occasion when the crowds thronged after Jesus and His disciples so they barely had a chance to eat, the disciples urged Him to send the people away so they could buy food, but Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way" (Matthew 15 : 32). Jesus went on to work one of his biggest miracles - multiplying the loaves and fishes - and fed over five thousand people.
Today, Jesus is no longer here on earth, but He expects us to have compassion on the poor and the hungry, as He did. Some people make it a habit to feed the homeless, or donate money and clothing to people in places that have been struck by disaster. I guess we have all done these things, but there are other ways to show compassion. It might be just listening to a co-worker who is going through a rough time in her marriage and offering a word of encouragement, paying for someone's lunch or helping a harried, young mother on the bus struggling to manage three small children.
Examples from my life
My mother was a very compassionate woman. In the early days of my marriage, I made it a habit to visit her everyday on my way home from work. I was an only child, my mother was a widow and I expected her to be lonely with me not being there. But most days I would meet her either cooking or serving dinner to some of the poor, elderly folks in the neighborhood. And she seemed very happy doing it.
I think I may have inherited some of her compassion. About a week after I began my first teaching job, I was invited to have lunch with the female teachers. I gladly accepted, but after a few days, I noticed that one of the teachers always ate alone. One day I invited her to join us. She hesitated then looked away and mumbled something. It was then I noticed the hearing aid in her ear. She was deaf! She saw me staring and explained that she became deaf after falling and hitting her head when she was a child. I ate lunch with her that day and for several days following. Then I invited her to join the other teachers and myself. She was a bit shy at first, but soon her confidence grew and she became one of us.
When I was growing up in Trinidad, and there was a death in my village, the neighbors would take food supplies to that home, enough to last several days. But they didn't stop there. Some of them would stay with the family for a few days, helping to cook, clean, run errands and do whatever they could to soften the period of mourning. When my mother passed away, the compassion I received from friends and relatives helped to ease the pain of my grief.
The scientific component
Research has found that compassion has mental and physical benefits and is necessary to our survival. According to research, compassion benefits us in the following ways:
It speeds up recovery from disease, boosts our immune system and may even lengthen our lifespan. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that compassionate people, who focused more on satisfying others rather than themselves, had lower levels of inflammation which leads to cancer and other diseases.
Giving to others increases our sense of well-being more than when we receive. This is true not only of adults, but also of children.
It protects against stress. People who volunteer for the sake of helping others, and not for self-serving reasons, have lower stress levels.
It increases social connectedness, which, researchers have found, reduces anxiety, depression and raises self-esteem. We know that lonely people often become depressed.
Be the good you would like to see
Volunteering as an act of compassion
As a Christian, I tithe, but I also give of my time and money to other projects. Some people get a lot of joy out of volunteering at hospitals, schools, churches, libraries and even pet shops. You may not think of volunteering as an act of compassion, but you are actually fulfilling a need without being compensated for it. Most volunteers report a sense of satisfaction and personal achievement from seeing the results of their work.
Share your acts of compassion
In what ways are you compassionate
So what is compassion?
Compassion goes beyond the sadness you feel or the tears you shed when you hear of someone's suffering. It is the feeling that evokes a response to that suffering. It may be giving your last dollar to someone on the street; housing your neighbor and her family when their home is damaged; giving food to elderly neighbors when they drop by; reaching out to someone who is isolated and bringing her into your circle of friends. Or you may have the compassion of Mother Teresa who gave up a comfortable life to live among the poor and take care of them. And what can beat the compassion Jesus showed when the crowds thronged Him, hungry for spiritual as well as material bread. Whatever you do, as long as you do it selflessly and without seeking attention, you have a heart of compassion. And God sees it.