I have to admit I grew up hearing the word ‘compassionate’. It was a common word in my house, my father was a pastor. But I never really thought about whether ‘compassionate’ is a word anyone would use when describing me. I’m going to shock you! I am not a naturally compassionate person. Some of my friends? Compassionate! Individuals who devote their time, money –in short, their lives to rescuing the less fortunate? Compassionate! People who are genuinely sad when misfortune comes to another person? Compassionate! I admire those whose hearts are naturally compassionate. I, on the other hand, have to work at it. Maybe you do too. Does that make us incompetent in performing acts of compassion? Of course not! We can still show compassion and be an effective actor, even if we have to work at it with a little more energy than our compassionate friends. Remember this: Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi
For those of us on the quest to practice compassion, here are 10 Ways to say ‘I care’!
1. Make a phone call. I hate making phone calls, so I’ve learned to have phone number lists available to make the task easier. Written out, phone books, directories, online contacts, stored in my cell phone – wherever I can find the number when needed.
2. Send a real card. In four sentences, you can express care and concern. You can also express great joy and congratulations. Did you know that even when an event is good, there is opportunity to be compassionate? Have sources for addresses handy, a supply of stamps, and something to write your thoughts on. I have received written notes of encouragement on a torn sheet of paper, and sweet words written on a torn off piece of a cereal box. Not kidding!
3. Go to your favorite coffeehouse or retail store and buy a small gift card. I’ve found some for $5 that are inexpensive enough that the person receiving it doesn’t feel obligated to ‘pay you back’ but still expresses compassion.
4. Take a meal, already cooked – or take a meal ready to cook. For this, I use an aluminum pan and put in a roast, potatoes, carrots, onion slices, and seasoning. Bake it or not bake it – depending on the situation. Add frozen vegetables in a cook-in bag. Take a long a pre-packaged salad that has the dressing inside. My best friend is famous for making a pan of lasagna and home-baking chocolate chip cookies.
5. Buy a gift certificate from a place that delivers hot food to the door. Mail or take the certificate and a printed copy of their menu. This is more difficult if the person lives where ‘home delivery’ is limited to the newspaper.
6. Visit in person. This can be tough. We are all busy – compassionate acts don’t know that. Especially if a person is confined to home for long periods of time, they crave personal visits, even if they are short. When you visit, the most important gift you can give is your time, a few funny stories, and a persistent smile.
7. Offer to babysit. Talk about inconvenient! That would mean …. Yes, it does. Practicing compassion is very inconvenient and means we use time we would rather spend doing anything else than watching noisy, rambunctious, messy kids.
8. Be the respite caregiver. There are homes close to you where someone is caring for an elderly parent or dependent child 24/7 and they need a break. They won’t ask, but if we offer they will accept our gift of compassion.
9. Send email – not just include them in your regular distribution. Send it to them personally, express your understanding of their specific need.
10. Be empathetic. In fact one of the keys to compassion is being able to walk in the shoes of another person, to be absorbed by what they are feeling, and identify with whatever their situation is. Empathy allows us to act appropriately.
Compassion is tough, especially for those of us who are not naturally compassionate. We need to invest more of ourselves into the mindset of compassion. It takes time we’d rather spend doing something else, and it takes effort to think of ways we can meet the need of another person when we see it. If you’re like me, most of the time the need has to be spelled out for me in slow, deliberate sentences because I-just-don’t-get-it. But once I understand it, then I can act. Maybe that’s how you are too. So now you know 10 ways you can show compassion the next time there’s a need. Oh wait a minute … I think I’m getting a call to action right now.