Holding Compassion

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A friend of mine posted a link to this article on facebook:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/apr/28/secret-aid-worker-after-years-in-the-field-i-worry-ive-lost-my-compassion?CMP=share_btn_fb

While I don’t have years in the field, I find these words ring true for me.  My daily life is full of scenes that would be shockingly heartbreaking to most Americans.

Take this all too common scene: kids begging for money in rags that could hardly be considered clothes, their feet hard and callused from years of walking the streets without shoes.

When I first got here, this would be something that would stop me in my tracks and pain my heart.  But it’s an image that I’m faced with constantly, day after day, so I rarely feel anything at all.  Of course I still have compassion in my heart for these kids.  But if I reacted to all of them, I wouldn’t have the time or energy for anything else.  I could not lead a functional life.

The author writes, “it’s a dangerous path, because while it’s necessary for our work to adapt in that way, to become used to the horrific, the emergencies, the situations that should never occur, where this road leads in the end is, of course, losing compassion entirely. You do occasionally meet someone, who’s been working in this field for decades, who does seem immune to compassion. Who no longer seems to really care about the people they work with and for.”

Dangerous indeed.  The author goes on to talk about how his/her idea of difficult living conditions has drastically changed since becoming an aid worker.  Scenes that used to be disturbing now look pretty good compared to other more desperate conditions.

I don’t know what this means for my future.

After seeing what we’ve seen, can we ever go back? Would we want to?

Food for thought.

 

 

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