Compassion by definition is, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”. I don’t quite like this explanation simply for the use of the word “pity”. While pity is not a negative term, it is often looked at that way. People don’t want to be pitied, as it can often feel like the equivalent of being looked down on. But people do seek empathy in others, that genuine feeling that there is someone else in the world that cares, who understands. So, in my world and in my brain, compassion means caring about others, something I feel deeply about. Not too long ago I stumbled upon a group of people bursting with compassion and decided to join them in their mission to, all at once, speak about it with the hopes of spreading kindness and concern. The operation, dubbed #1000Speak For Compassion, was started by Yvonne Spence, who in just one of your everyday moments, had the idea of rallying one thousand bloggers to write about compassion and support all on the same day. The idea took flight quickly and was something I definitely wanted to be apart of. But once the day was set and the clock began to tick, I suddenly felt insignificant. What could I say about compassion that would make a difference? What have I done in my life that is worth writing about, or better yet, worth spreading as an example of love or sympathy?
I could think of nothing. It made me feel tiny, and worried that I had signed up for this awesome project without realizing I wasn’t cut out for it. It wasn’t until I read another blogger’s post in which she revealed her trouble coming up with something to write about, as she felt perhaps she didn’t have the right to talk about this topic when surely there had been times in her life when she hadn't been full of compassion. In her decision to look at herself, I realized that I wasn’t insignificant and neither was she. In fact, none of us are. So long as there lives a little piece of compassion and concern in each of us, there lives the ability to make a difference and be the positive in a world overrun with negativity.
It is often the simplest, sometimes, stupid, jokes that make me laugh the hardest. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love the things that make some people roll their eyes, and in my fit of giggles you’ll often hear me say it’s the little things that make me happy. Little things. Simple jokes, gestures or moments in time can be so little yet so powerful. We don’t often realize but even the simplest acts of kindness can go farther than you could ever imagine. My mom always said, “Never forget a kindness” and it’s something I’ve always remembered and kept with me. I used to think of it as remembering someone who did you a favor so that you could repay them, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that it serves to mean something so much more. By remembering a kindness, no matter how little or unimportant it may have seemed, you remember a moment of someone else’s best side, of their compassion and selflessness. Holding that with you always, you enable yourself to want to pay it forward. And if you hold that want in your heart and act upon it when the moment presents itself, I don’t think you’ll ever be insignificant.
Whether it’s a much-needed hug or a listening ear, just the simplest of acts can be the ultimate display of compassion. Thinking acts of kindness done only in the grandest scale are the ones that truly make a difference, is what holds many of us back and in turn, results in us losing the whole point of what compassion means or is supposed to be. You don’t need to break the bank to brighten someone else’s day or provide hope to the hopeless. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul” and in effect told us hope resides inside us all, ready to flap its wings and fly high. It only needs to be activated. Sometimes, it takes another person to get it started. If you, even in just one time in your life, are able to enact the hope inside someone else, what a legacy you have created.
Our ability to have concern and care for one another is what makes us whole. It is an attribute we seek in others and a trait we hope to develop further in ourselves. In a recent episode of “Downton Abbey” my favorite character, Lady Grantham, played by the great Maggie Smith, looked upon one of her granddaughter’s poor behavior and proclaimed, “A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears”. A sentiment, I must confess, I agree wholeheartedly with. An absence of compassion and ability to feel for another leaves an awful, ugly hole, one recognized in the acts of bullies and ignorance. If we could teach each other and remember that love goes farther when it is genuine, spontaneous and often, small, we might one day be able to fill the world with more light than dark.
Undoubtedly there will always be cold, maybe hateful, individuals in the world, but when over a thousand people can come together on one day to reflect on the kindness they’ve known, I can’t help but feel my hope soaring high. None of us live insignificantly. I know I have hugged someone tight when they needed it most, sent a random message of encouragement when they needed to hear it and did what I could to show them someone cared. I know I have been hugged when I needed it, listened to when I thought no one would understand and inspired to keep going because of someone else’s belief in me. All in all, these little moments, seemingly insignificant, hold great volumes of compassion and hope. What little thing can you do to change someone’s world? Just thinking of them may have already done so. Act on your compassion as your heart tells you to and never forget a kindness, you may find it to be your greatest inspiration.
Join the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Facebook group and spread the love all over social media with the hashtag #1000Speak - together we can cover the world with kindness.