"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
~ Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Of all the quotes in this, my most favorite book of all time, this one speaks to me in the manner of greatest significance.
I've written before about compassion, about how it is sorely lacking in our society, about how it is absolutely imperative that we teach it to children, that we foster and encourage it. I've written about how desperately we all need it, how much we seem to have lost a basic connection with it and with each other. It's a topic near and dear to my heart.
A while back now, a movement began within the blogging community to write about compassion. To take one day from our collective lives and focus on this subject instead of all the other things we all write about.
Tomorrow is that day.
The original goal was to get 1,000 writers together. I believe we're over that number now. The home of the movement can be found here, along with the links to the other pieces written. Check back over the next few days as more are submitted.
As a writer, some of the pieces I have been the most personally attacked for were the ones where I asked others to be considerate of one another. Where I attempted to explain that none of us truly knows the journey of someone else. Where I asked for people to reserve judgment, to refrain from reacting emotionally to all the trials and tribulations, to understand that though we may be affected by the choices of other people, we are almost never the reason for those choices, to choose to be compassionate even when it is difficult.
I've written about this most frequently in the context of addiction and mental illness, though there is an argument to be made that those two aren't nearly as distinct as most people believe them to be. I firmly believe they are interconnected intimately, and the evidence increasingly suggests this truth.
Compassion demands that we try to do what Atticus Finch asked of us, that we try to imagine what the world looks like through the eyes of another person.
It is easier to judge. It is easier to assume that people intend to hurt themselves, to hurt others, to hurt us. It's easier because in this society we like to point fingers. We like to assign blame. We like a hard delineation between rightness and wrongness.
Seeing people as fallible, as human, as struggling with their own battles, it makes teasing out those distinctions impossible.
Rightness and wrongness fade away when we begin to embrace the human experience of another person, when we can begin to understand where they come from, what their motivations are, why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do.
None of us truly ever knows what another person has been through.
We can't know.
What we can do, though, is try to understand.
I'm going to ask you all to try.
Try to imagine what led someone to alcohol, to drugs, to reckless behaviors. Try to imagine what it might be like to overcome an addiction. Try to understand what drives a child to lash out physically at another. Try to understand why family members need to distance themselves from one another. Try to imagine the struggle of the single parents, of those who have lost their spouses, of those who've been left by the person they depended on most. Try to imagine what hunger is like, what it means to not know where your next meal is coming from or if you'll be able to feed your children. Try to imagine what it is like to live with a terminal diagnosis or a chronic life changing one. Try to imagine what it's like to suffer from an invisible disease or ailment, one that no one can see but affects every aspect of life. Try to imagine what it is like to struggle to read. Try to imagine what the weight of anxiety feels like upon your shoulders, when depression holds on tight and won't let go.Try to imagine what it is like to suffer great losses. Try to imagine what it feels like to be truly alone.
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