Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Practicing Compassion

Of all the things I've seen about Syrian refugees, this video made me cry. In the face of all the rejection Syrian refugees are receiving, even here in the country that famously welcomes "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," these people in Germany massed to hold up welcome signs. A small effort, but think how good it must have felt.

Here in the American dream it's easy to harden to all the suffering far from us. But this one has come close to me. 

My first thought was to give some money. $8 I thought, the price of an inexpensive lunch. As I read about the crisis, the figure went up. I was just about to sign up for one of those cool events the elite institutions of my city offer, an Early Fall Supper, $45. I decided to give that money and cook myself an early fall supper that night. 

But where to give the money? This is where we often get just stopped. Charity is so complicated, even the charity rating people get bad ratings. I decided to give it locally, but got confused. One agency doesn't list an email address I can write to to ask what they do with a donation. I am also put off by their huge staff and the lack of a TO. I've decided to give instead to a local church that I know is hands-on active in helping the needy.

Wait, what can you do besides give someone your lunch money? I found my way to this petition to the President to increase the US resettlement of refugees. Obama started with a small number, 10,000, which activated the conservative media, who see it as "an invasion." I'm not kidding. Those of us who see compassion as our central practice need to be activated too. This wealthy country can easily share with the starving.

It gets harder. Other than writing this, how can I give my body, my time? I have to be careful about taking things on. For one thing, I take immune-suppressants and easily get infections. For another, my energy is limited. One thought I have is submitting something to my own church's Justice Action Ministry. But what? . . . . What I really want to do is be in that crowd at the airport holding up a welcome sign. Maybe I can find out how to do that.


  1. I believe I can trust MSF (Doctors Without Borders), but don't know how effective they could be with the refugee situation.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I do trust them too. I imagine they are working there, but food and housing seem to be the problems.