"Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but of civilization." - Nicholas Kristoff' I've been thinking a lot lately about compassion, especially in terms of the upcoming US election cycle. I have an interesting history with religion, having spent the first 15 years of my life blissfully ignorant to any religion before spending 4 years at a Catholic high school where I was thrown in head first. I never came close to becoming Catholic, but I did really enjoy learning many of the values that most Christian faiths instill in its followers. One such core value is this idea of compassion, and my four years of Catholic teaching opened my eyes to soup kitchens, clothing drives, holiday gift drives, and caring for those in the community who were struggling in one way or another. This has no doubt shaped me into the man I am today.
Fast forward to 2012 and I am blown away by an apparent lack of compassion in this country, including a significant number of so called Christians. We are the wealthiest and strongest nation in the world and yet our country is in the midst of a vicious debate over providing health care, something that could arguably be called a universal right. If you look at many of the hotly debated issues, whether it is health care, gay rights, immigration, or female equality, they all boil down to compassion. I wish every American was able to put themselves into the shoes of others before voting, thinking through the issues from the perspective of someone whose whole world centers upon one of these. For example, what if you were the friend or relative of Scott Androes, the man who made a now fatal mid life crisis mistake to quit his job and lose his health insurance and was recently portrayed by Nicholas Kristoff's in the New York Times (read here)? Or what if you were brought to the US when you were 3 months old and know nothing but the USA and are told that you have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a citizen?
Almost all of the issues debated in this year's election have absolutely no impact on my day to day life. Regardless of who wins, I will wake up on November 7th knowing that my life can continue on in pretty much the same manner. But for millions of Americans, that will unfortunately not be the case. In one night, the dream of affordable health care, marrying the love of one's life, or becoming a US citizen could be destroyed. So why do I care so much about this election? It all comes down to compassion. I feel for those in situations different than mine. I feel lucky to be where I am and I recognize the best way that I can show that appreciation is to care for others that aren't so lucky.
So, on November 6th, all I ask for is that you think about how you can be compassionate to others. Help your fellow Americans with a vote that represents what you would be wishing for if you were in the shoes of one of millions of other Americans struggling to get health insurance, hoping for equal pay, in need of birth control, or trying to get married. Who knows, maybe that will be you or your child some day in need of some compassion.
Seeing the graphic below really made me sad, as it shows a complete lack of compassion by a large portion of Americans (unfortunately there is a large % in all 3 groups). Pew Research Center study from 2012 (page 5 in PDF).