Tag Archives: kindness

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

IMG_0061

There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

How A Friend Can Change the World…

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won’t be afraid
No I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

John Lennon: Stand By Me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vSWHkxZgOI

Surprise! Surprise! It’s me… Bilbo (Rowena’s original dog). I can’t believe I’m back from the very brink after surviving what became a highly controversial campaign to unite cats and dogs. Talk about setting a match to a fuse!!

You might recall that I’d  jumped onto Mum’s brand new Twitter account with my infamous hashtag: #cats and dogs are friends. Much to my horror, rather than building bridges between cats and dogs, I actually attracted the wrath of both species and received multiple, very nasty, terrifying death threats.

Yet, against the odds, I have survived. I’ve been attacked by dogs. Attacked by cats. Yet, Lady, my fearless canine companion, has stood by me. She not only brought me food during my darkest hours of need, she also spoke out and refused to be a bystander. She wanted to take my message of peace to the masses and help them see reason. Where I had drawn all sorts of fancy equations all over my chalk board which made perfect sense to me but evidently to no one else, Lady was much more direct. Quite simply, as the cats and dogs were viciously fighting; gnashing their teeth, scratching, screeching, barking and growling; she very simply said:

Woodstock Festival, August 15 to 18, 1969.

Woodstock Festival, August 15 to 18, 1969. (Mum was 3 weeks old at the time, by the way!)

“Are you proud of yourselves?”

After all, sometimes even the most noble-minded among us can get caught up in our own cause and lose all sense of perspective.

Lady’s intelligent, quick thinking stopped everyone in their tracks. Don’t ask me how because such brawls between old foes have never stopped like this before. Suddenly and quite inexplicably, all eyes both feline and canine were fixed on my scruffy black and white friend, who although she’s called Lady, really is more of a “ruff ruff” in so many, many ways.

Lady called out again to emphasise her point.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon's message still rings true: Give Peace A Chance. The trouble is how to maintain the peace when there is still so much evil in this world.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s message still rings true: Give Peace A Chance. The trouble is how to maintain the peace when there is still so much evil in this world.

“Are you proud of yourselves?”

A unified sense of shame descended upon the rabble and there was absolute silence.

“We’ve been fighting long enough. It’s time for cats and dogs to mend our smashed and broken fences and build a new way forward based on tolerance and understanding. We have been fighting since the very dawn of time and yet we don’t even know why. What is our cause? We live in our separate worlds, apart from the odd exceptions who somehow manage to live in harmony, without any form of interaction or communication. Most dogs know no cats and most cats know no dogs. Indeed, this war has become some dreadful form of genetic hatred passed on from one generation to the next… just like our DNA. Indeed, we’ve even assumed it’s in our genes. That hating each other is who we are.” Lady said.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Lady declared and then paused. There was still absolute silence and all ears and eyes were on her and yet nobody really understood why. Lady was just a scruffy little black and white dog with more of a reputation for food thievery than an good example.

“Perhaps, Bilbo took his peace efforts too far too soon. Indeed, it might be too early for dogs and cats to become friends. However, as he said… small steps. He probably just got a little over-enthusiastic. We dogs do have a habit of that.”

“I do think, however, that Bilbo was on the right track trying to bring about change by applying the Golden Rule. I think we’ve all forgotten what that is.

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Bilbo also touched on an revision of the Golden Rule:

The Inverse Golden Rule: Treat others as they would like to be treated.

This is perhaps more useful for improving relations between cats and dogs. After all, we’re actually quite different and don’t really like most of the same things. Rather than being a stumbling block, these differences could actually be a good thing for friendship. We’re not actually competing for the same things. We’d be equal but different.”

It soon became clear that this once terrifying, violent mob of cats and dogs had somehow fallen under Lady’s spell.

Then she added: “If cats and dogs can mend fences, perhaps then those humans might even get along better as well. They can be an arrogant bunch…so convinced they have all the answers and are far superior to the likes of us but you never know. Seeing cats and dogs finally living together in peace might just give them the jolt they need. Then, we’ll all finally be able to sleep at night, instead of waiting for the bomb to go off.”

“I guess you could call it enlightened self-interest.”

Wow! I was stonkered by this transition in Lady. There I was thinking she was purely decorative and not any use at all. While I was hard at work, she was just battering her puppy dog eyes to get more treats. Then out of nowhere, she becomes the change which I’d been writing so much about. I was only ever able to theorise and philosophise but Lady could act and act she did. Firstly, by feeding me in hiding and keeping me safe. Then, she rallied behind the cause. Courageously confronting a dangerously out of control mob of angry cats and dogs, she brought about peace. They actually stopped fighting and from what I can see, we’ve all changed. Cats and dogs might never be friends but at least we’ve come to realise that this war is a choice. It’s not part of who we are. It’s not etched in our DNA. It can stop.

We live in hope!

We live in hope!

Lady had been only one dog and very much a lone voice calling out through a very hostile wilderness. Yet, good triumphed over evil. Love and tolerance overcame hate, violence and judgement. We will never be cats and cats will never be dogs but it doesn’t have to be war and I can even sense forgiveness.

I was completely blown away by Lady's powers of persuasion. Those puppy dog eyes work a treat!!

I was completely blown away by Lady’s powers of persuasion. Those puppy dog eyes work a treat!!

I’ve also learned a few things. While it’s good to have friends with the same interests and who are just like me, it’s also good to have some differences. I’d never thought of this before. As much as I love Lady, especially after all of this, we do compete over so many things such as: pats from the family, dinner, bones and tennis balls. On the other hand, that pesky cat… oops, I mean the nice cat from next door, leaves all of them alone. I could have them all to myself. That really should make us the best of friends.

Cats and dogs have been fighting for so long that we’ve become blinded to everything we have in common. Although I’m struggling to think of anything right off the cuff, I’m sure there had to be something. If only I could meet a cat and have some form of meaningful dialogue before it runs away, I could elaborate. Well, at least we have four legs, a tail and red blood.

Thinking about how Lady was able to achieve so much, perhaps Eisenhower was right after all:

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Now, I am almost a happy dog. That’s pretty darn good for an old dog whose food bowl always seems to be empty. Forget about this half full business. Now, perhaps you’ll understand why I struggle to find the bright side. However, it’s good to be thinking about food again, instead of being being: “The Hunted”.

Yes, our world definitely needs a lot more love and a lot less hate!!!

When I got home, I sang Lady this song and we finished it together:

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door…

Carol King: You’ve Got A Friend.

Love through new beginnings,

xx Bilbo

PS: All donations to my food bowl will be gratefully accepted!!

PPS:

PS: If you are interested in reading my research into the Golden Rule, my posts start here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/greetings-from-good-dog/

If you are interested in hearing from Lady, click here for some of her posts:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/my-dog-post-lady-at-palm-beach-sydney/

This is Mum’s post: A Portrait of a Lady, which tells a few truths about my little friend.

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/portrait-of-a-lady/

 

The Niceometer.

It’s time we bring back the niceometer and value niceness, instead of celebrating the very worst of human behaviour!

For some reason, being “nice” is now perceived as some kind of put down. Used to refer to someone who boring, bland or insipid, it’s used as a derogatory term – instead of something to be revered.

I say we need to bring back “nice”. Resurrect it from the dead and all nice people should sport their niceness with pride.

Nice needs to come out of the closet and strut its stuff.

I know being nice probably sounds very Brady Bunch but what’s so wrong with caring about your fellow human being and developing a bit of character? Shouldn’t we be encouraging giving instead of taking? Building community?

I was reminded again about the importance of supposedly old-fashioned niceness on Friday when we attended the finale of Fill the Boot, a fundraiser run by the Fire Brigade to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. We were there because my auto-immune disease is a neuro-muscular condition and I am a member of Muscular Dystrophy NSW. To read all about Fill the Boot, you can read my previous post and click here for the official web site: http://www.filltheboot.com.au/

We had such a fabulous day and experienced the very best of human nice and kindness that I had to share it. Here are a few vignettes from our Fill the Boot Day, which might just restore your faith in human kindness. I’ve listed them in chronological order as the day unfolded.

Some firies at the North Sydney Olympic Pool

Firstly, there was the fundraising by the firies. Firies are wonderful people who put their lives on the line everyday to save others. Yet, they found the time and energy to get out there and raise money for us and I really appreciate it! They managed to raise $100,000.00 for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. Yippee! That’s a lot of chocolate… oops! I mean research!

The kids with Luke.

Secondly, we not only met Luke Jacobz, Host of the x Factor, he actually spent time with us – real time. I have to laugh because when I first met him, he was wearing an Olympic gold medal around his neck and I thought he was one the athletes. Go Ro! I have watched the x Factor but I don’t watch a lot of TV and I’m certainly no celebrity chaser. I honestly didn’t recognise him.

Luke was genuinely very, very nice and one of those rare people who are very attentive and really listen to you. Mister and Luke had some very long discussions about something although none of us can quite remember what they talked about. I do remember Miss talking to him about her tooth falling out and how she’d found fairy dust on her hands the next morning along with a $5.00 note from the tooth fairy. As I said, Luke was very attentive and asked her questions and took a real, genuine interest. He wasn’t looking over his shoulder for someone more interesting to chat with. The kids really appreciated this. Not because he is the host of the X Factor but because he helped them feel special, loved and treasured. They were glowing. It really touched me to see them so happy. We have had some very tough times and it meant the world for me to see them smile and have so many deep belly laughs.

Kags & Mister

Kags from MDNSW also did a pretty good job at making the kids laugh and feel special too. I’ve been asked when they’re going to see Kags again.

Kags & Miss at the lunch.

The kids with Kate, Luke and the gold medal.

Thirdly, Cate Campbell shared her precious Olympic Gold Medal (or “mettal” as Miss called it) with us. It was only when I arrived home and was talking to my husband, Geoff, that the enormity of that hit me. The kids were able to wear the medal round their necks. When I was a kid, I wasn’t even allowed to touch Dad’s good crystal wine glasses. They were very, very precious. Yet, Cate trusted my kids, complete strangers, with her very precious, irreplaceable Olympic gold medal. This wasn’t just some plastic replica you find at the $2.00 shop. It was the real thing. That was very, very nice!

Miss with the gold medal.

Cate also spent time with us and I must say I enjoyed watching her swim. She took freestyle to a whole new level and had something like the grace of a swan. Needless to say, it was quite a different experience to what I’m used to at swimming lessons!

Fourthly, a fireman drove my car across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and into the Sydney Fire Station. I always feel a bit silly about my nervous driving even though I am spatially challenged. However, I was able to voice my concerns to MDNSW who sent Kags along as navigator. But then a fireman offered his services so how could I resist?  I decided that driving home across the Harbour Bridge would be a better time to extend my driving prowess. As it was, because the fireman was driving, we ended up at the tail end of the street parade featuring the beautiful historic fire engine. It was quite exciting being part of the action.

The Kids with Blazer.

Fifthly, the firies gave the kids caps and toys. This might not sound like much but it meant the world to the kids. Mister was given a cap from the Sydney Fire Station, which is almost glued on his head. He loves it!! He even took it to bed with him. He was also given a patch from the Northern Territory. Miss was given a cap from the Tasmanian Fire Service, which was very special because Geoff comes from Tasmania. A firey from  Brisbane’s Roma Street Fire Station gave each of the kids a fire fighting koala bear called Blazer. They love him. We have also been invited into the Roma Street Fire Station when we’re in Brisbane next and hope to get there in January. There were other gifts, I’m sure. The kids were spoilt!

I always appreciate that whenever I go to functions organised by Muscular Dystrophy, that I feel so loved, valued and accepted. I always feel like I’m floating along in a wonderful love bubble. This isn’t because people feel sorry for me or pity me but they do acknowledge what we are going through. I have found everybody I meet there truly inspirational and so encouraging. Pretty much most of us are living life to the max…our max anyway. I often find that when people are challenged by adversity they can actually achieve the most amazing things. People find strength seemingly out of nowhere and it’s just amazing and seemingly quite illogical

It’s now Monday night and that fire brigade cap is still glued to Mister’s head..

This morning when I dropped the kids at school, one of them piped up in the car and said: “we are the luckiest kids in the whole wide world.” That’s what being nice does. It builds people up. Helps them feel good and makes the world a better place.

In a world where being known as a “hater” in some circles is cool, I’d much rather be “nice”.

Wouldn’t you?!!

If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading my previous post The Love of A Stranger.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena