Having spent much of this past week with just my dog and daughter’s cat for company my thoughts have turned to community and the three days I spent earlier this month on retreat with other women seekers where we experienced compassion for one another and became a healing community. In the preface to Matthew Fox’s book, “A Spirituality Named Compassion,” he writes: Compassion is not an abstraction, but an entry into our own and others’ pain. And joy as well. … Compassion is not merely a human energy; it is integral to the universe. ...Compassion is a mystery. …our very essence, the very best of ourselves is to practice compassion. … Compassion is important to wounded and oppressed peoples, and to the survival of our planet.
When I struggled with my aging parent’s care needs, the compassion of others who cared sustained me. My pain touched others as well. In my memoir, “God Never Hurries,” I recount words I spoke at a church reform convention’s small breakout group titled “Patriarchy to Partnership.” I wrote: I felt empathy for a man in that session who was struggling to understand complicity. In response to his frustrated disbelief that we all hold some responsibility for abusive patriarchy, I said, ‘My father is a tyrant. I suffered most of my life under his tyranny until God showed me my complicity and I started standing up to him. I am now the only one in the family who stands up to him. My father is still a tyrant, but I am no longer his subject.’ After I spoke those words I felt a new level of acceptance and deeper change taking hold in me. Applause from the group surely helped along with some hugs at session’s end, but most affirming were words from one woman who said, “You really helped me.”
During that most difficult time in my life I never met some of the people in my helping community but only spoke with them on long distance phone calls. The following is from my memoir: Outside of alerting social services agencies that my parents now had no care, and my mother could be in serious jeopardy, there was precious little I could do except trust God had a plan and accept whatever happens, happens. Pouring my heart out to these professionals over the past two years had not been in vain. Now the greatest help they gave me were their respectful long distance voices.
What if the next time we are “Wherever two or more are gathered together…” we look for the mystery within us that is named Compassion, and respond to one another with respectful voices.