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Compassionate Response to Tragedy

Responding to Tragedy: Can Kindness & Compassion Help Heal a Broken World?


man with light behind him

“The inter-relatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather – for I believe the heart is infinite – modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.”

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

That was written in 1955.

“Today a kind of planetal point of view has burst upon mankind,” wrote Lindbergh. “The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.”

“But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness?” asked Lindbergh. “We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information…and to implement into action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds.”

Sixty years later, the world is a very different place – and news of the tensions, conflicts and staggering amount of suffering now reaches us, thanks to the internet and social media, at lightning speed.

Put your hand up if you’re as horrified as I am with all the tragedy happening in the world.

In the past few weeks alone, the violent acts in Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, France, Pakistan and Calgary have made it through my protective shell and hit the old heart.

And that’s just a snapshot of recent events that made the mainstream news. What about the millions of people suffering and/or needlessly dying around the world on any given day – that doesn’t get reported?

Never mind the ongoing slaughter of species at risk animals – such as elephants for their tusks. Try as I might to avoid seeing heart-breakingly graphic photos of poachers and their gruesome handiwork, they keep finding their way into my in-box.

How are we supposed to accept all that is wrong in the world?

Because the pain, horror, hatred, violence and sadness just goes on and on and on. Each new day brings a new tragedy – which means the previous day’s tragedy is already on its way to becoming yesterday’s news. But I know for a fact that what quickly becomes old news to the rest of the world is just the beginning of a very long descent into hell for those coming to terms with their loved ones’ death.

So what are we supposed to do? Stop listening to the news?

head in sand.jpeg

Stick our head in the sand and pretend everything is okay? Join the ranks of the apathetic masses? Cruise Pinterest for photos of pretty things that at least make us feel better?

Or do we stay tuned to the news and respond to each tragedy by sending out a quick little prayer to those who have been impacted?

Or…do we respond by trying to make life a bit better for those in our little corner of the world?

I don’t have the answers. But what I am trying to do, whenever I hear word of the latest violent act, is consciously choose to have a compassionate response to the tragedy.

Even if it is something as small as sending an encouraging e-mail to a friend. Or picking up the phone and calling someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time – just to see how they are doing. Or re-tweeting a stranger’s good news.

I’m also trying not to listen, hear and watch too much of all the bad that is going on in the world – and instead focus on the good that’s happening…as well as thinking of small but significant acts that I can take in my own life each and every day to help put a smile on someone’s face. In other words:

“Do small things with great love.”

– Mother Teresa

Instead of horrific acts with great hate – as seems to be the trend these days.

man with umbrella

Who knows: maybe compassion, kindness and joy can, in some small way, help combat all the hatred, intolerance, anger and violence?

I’m curious as to how YOU handle all the sad news on any given day. Does it impact you? Do you pay close attention to the news? Do you feel compassion for strangers? If so, do you act on it?

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.


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4 thoughts on “Compassionate Response to Tragedy”

  1. What a great topic for discussion. I’ve been thinking about this all week. I’m not sure what to add to it. I’d like to hear from different clergy on what their advice would be. A pastor or buddist monk or any other wise teacher. I have yo-yoed back and forth. Sometimes tuning out and not watching or listening to any news. Although that’s not all that effective because news still gets talked about in every circle of acquaintances. So I end up hearing about it any ways. And then I go through periods where I feel I really do need to keep up to date on world happenings and watch the news daily. Neither way feels great about all that goes on in the world. I suspect that doing small acts of kindness on a daily basis in our own circles amounts to a lot and would be the advice of said clergy. The book Me to We touches a lot on this topic. In fact that is the basis of the entire book. I would strongly recommend reading that book. There is so much we can do. And probably a lot we already do, do. I am involved in different volunteer community organizations already that I never realized is already part of the Me to We concept. I also feel strongly that it is my duty to actively do things with my children as well to cultivate empathy in them and create caring individuals. It’s been a slow start but myself along with my 6 and 8 year olds are selling children’s books with 100% of the profits going to different charity’s. We are starting out with some local charities with in the province and have plans to extend into third world countries, where I feel there is such a high need. It was in part their idea as I am always searching out historical and cultural books to read to them. They know who Nelson Mandela is and Mother Teresa. Anne Frank. Just to name a few. I was searching for a way to bring it up with them to actively raise money for charity when they brought it up one night after story time how they’d like to just take all their money and give it to those poor people who don’t have all that we have. Needless to say I was thrilled and have set the process in motion. Albeit slow progress, we will continue.
    I know right now as I go through some of my own family stresses, I actively choose to read a book called When Elephants Fight by Eric Walters & Adrian Bradbury. It’s the stories of 5 different children in different countries caught in conflict and how it effects and impacts their lives. Wow! it puts our ‘problems’ in perspective and takes some of the stress away as I can’t help but be thankful for all that I have. Even though I may not always feel like everything is going so smoothly, there are millions that have it so much worse.

  2. ‘To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.’ – anonymous

    I love that quote! It really sums up my point in discussion and what I feel the Me to We concept is.

  3. Hi Jac! Wow…thanks so much for the beautiful comments. You raise some really good points about the big impacts that our seemingly small actions DO have! And I am SO glad to hear that your idea of selling books to raise funds for charity is going well. Slow and steady is the way to go. Good for you guys!

    Take care and keep up the great work 🙂

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