The word of the day came to me while scanning email newsletters to which I subscribe. Compassion. I thought, when is the last time, if ever, that I have contemplated compassion?

I’m not even positive that I know what it means.

One definition began with pity. But I didn’t think that captured the idea. So, I had to go deeper.

It begins with sensitivity. I think it must begin with us, ourselves. We must have some level of self-awareness as human beings. Then an awareness of other human beings. The breakdown of the word surely contains thoughts of a shared emotional experience.

Thoughts cannot contain the entire concept. Not only must we be aware of others and understand ourselves, but we must show that somehow. We cannot just be in our room wallowing in our feelings. We must do something.

If we are near the other, perhaps we can go and sit with them. If we are far (however defined), we can send expressions of understanding and sympathy. As much as I emphasize the excessive fear, anxiety, and hate spread through social media, I must recognize the times when that is the quickest way to express compassion.

My “newsfeed” within Facebook, for example, regularly has responses containing the emoji of praying hands to someone in distress. Knowing that others express understanding and support at tough times is a help in these times.

I like this, from Wikipedia, Compassion motivates people to put forth a selfless effort in helping the physical, mental , or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion is often regarded as having sensitivity, which is an emotional aspect to suffering.

This may be one of the most underused of the spiritual practices. Praying hands sent on social media once in a while is good. But we must ask ourselves, is this enough?

What have I done this morning to show compassion to myself? How can I be watchful for opportunities to show a little compassion to others? It doesn’t have to be a huge action.

I sit on the outside patio at the local coffee house. There is no handicapped access button on their door (Hint to Mr. Starbucks, it would be great if you added that!). I sometimes see a woman in a wheel chair who can just barely move her arms enough to use the joystick to maneuver her vehicle. Oh, and to hold her coffee, of course. She drives up to the door but can’t get in. I’ll pop up and go open the door. Just a small act, but significant for her. And I’m not the only person. Some people sit and ignore her, but many young and old have helped.

Opportunities to open our souls a little and show even a small act of compassion occur continually. We become sensitive to others and their needs. We act. We are thereby compassionate.

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