Another way one can learn about compassion is to raise a child with special needs. At first, it seems like a foreign land isolated from the rest of the world. As time goes on, it becomes apparent there are many others also traversing and navigating a similar journey. We start recognizing the similarities and understand we are not walking alone. With each step realizing that the more we interact, the more we can help one another.
We have met numerous families over the years who have had to deal with very difficult situations. I remember an encounter I had with a dad while Livy was in the hospital in the intensive care unit. It started with his son, who had disabilities, being brought into the room next to us.
Over the course of the night, his son’s condition deteriorated. In the morning, I could hear a number of doctors and nurses rushing in and out of the room. Shortly after, his son passed away. I never found out what happened or why they were there in the first place. I briefly spoke to the dad in the hallway after it was over. He asked me a question about where a room was located.
In that instant, I could feel his pain. I could see it in his face. I wanted to hug this man and not let him go. I knew he had just suffered a parent’s greatest loss and that when he walked out of the hospital, his life would be forever changed. I looked at him and felt an unbelievable sense of compassion. I desperately wanted to take his pain away.
The thing is, those feelings have never stopped. The experience of raising Livy has taught us to be compassionate for those we meet who are struggling to either take care of their kids with medical challenges or handle their own troubles. They may be going through something different than we are, but it has become easier to put ourselves in their shoes. It is similar to empathy. But in addition, we want to do something to help them.
As many people do, I often wonder why we are here. What is the purpose of life. We were all brought into this world the same way, as equals. Each person deserves to be treated with dignity. If nothing else, our purpose here should be to help others especially when they are hurting. It may be hard to do so when you don’t agree with their point of view or beliefs. But being compassionate means looking past differences in order to improve the life of another. What you do today matters. Wouldn’t you rather be remembered tomorrow for how you treated others and the lives you impacted? I think that is a good life worth living.