During my travels around the country, from time to time I hear people say we have a compassion crisis. Look at the homeless struggling to stay warm in the winter and immigrants doing all they can to better their life, despite much opposition at times. I decided to investigate this further. I began observing people more acutely, in airports, coffee shops, malls and schools (I also work as a mentor at elementary and middle schools where I live) and a bit of investigating on the internet. My findings will come a bit later in this article.
I view compassion simply as assisting another, whether that be in a time of direct, immediate need or not. Be it human being or animal. To have a passion to help another, to be there for them when others may not. It takes courage at times, but the feeling you get, the combination of satisfaction and overall well-being, warms your heart.
I recently read an article regarding primary care givers and patient office visits. Most patients needed under a minute to talk about their main concerns but were interrupted just 11 seconds into the conversation. Time and time again I talk about “Listening to understand”, not just to reply. How can that occur if you’re contemplating your response seconds after you begin listening. Most people have heard of active listening skills but few have ever actually taken an instructional class. I truly believe if these were taught at a young age, our communication skills and how we approach those who are suffering would be quite different. Couple active listening skills with empathy, and we have a recipe for a better world, that I am sure of.
We go out of our way day in and day out to help our family and friends, but what if we took that time to also assist someone in need we have never met before. Most of us have heard the phrase, “random acts of kindness”. When I was with the California Highway Patrol and worked with suicidal subjects on the Golden Gate Bridge, time and time again a common theme was no one really listened to what the individual was going through. It was not that the listener could fix what was going on, but that they simply did not listen. They interjected their own opinions and issues into the conversation. We want to try and fix things, that’s our nature.
So, back to my findings. I truly believe compassion is alive. We are a work in progress at times, but are making strides in assisting the homeless, our veterans, and those who are struggling. Remember, just a few minutes of your day could be a life changer for someone else. My friends, take a few deep breaths, take some time for yourself every day, listen to understand, and take that few minutes to be a life changer for someone.
Kevin R. Briggs
Author: Guardian of the Golden Gate, Protecting the Line Between Hope and Despair
© 2020 KR Briggs