Monday, May 2, 2011

Compassion for others

Last night, as I was sleeping, my friend sent me a text message. This was nothing out of the ordinary. They stay up late; I often go to bed early. And not I'm-an-old-lady-and-get-up-at-5am-early, but it was sometime before midnight. The text read,

" The US military just killed Bin Laden. Obama is about to speak."

As I read the words in my dreamy sleep, I really only hoped it was Joel saying he made it to his campsite and was also hunkering down for the night. Slightly confused by what I read, I closed my phone, put it back by my bedside and quickly fell back asleep.

Checking email and the non-essential social media this morning, my heart has been a little sad all day by the number of rejoiceful and yet hateful things I have read. I can't shake the overwhelming feeling either. Yes, the news of Osama Bin Laden's death brings joy and comfort to many people, especially in the US. Perhaps they feel like they don't have to live in fear anymore. Perhaps their loved ones are one step closer to coming home. I do not fully understand the consequences of this news. And quite frankly I am not sure anyone who celebrates this news can fully grasp the situation either.

Does it mean that we can stop fighting?
Does it mean these wars will be over and people will suddenly decide to be peaceful?

Ten years ago, I did not (and still do not) own a television. I remember walking through a common space in the art building and there were small groups of students, ghost-faced and staring up at the events unfolding on the screens above. At the time, I was horrified by what I saw and heard. "Did you see the bodies jumping from the towers?" fingers pointing, videos played over and over as ovals highlighted the falling figures. After the first morning, I chose to not look at images if I could help it. Sheltered from images of 9/11 tragedies, it was only years later that I was struck with the emotional drama that most people could not rip themselves from watching on their TV sets. Perhaps it was my chosen shelter that makes it more difficult for me to understand the hateful things I hear now about Bin Laden's death. Maybe I don't have the same emotional attachment and vindictive sense of relief.

One thing that strikes me during all of this is the need for compassion. I am thankful for our president with his somber response and respect to Bin Laden's death. We need more leaders leading with compassion and thoughtfulness for all parties involved. Put yourself in someone else's shoes and try on their life for just a moment. You might not like what you see when you look in the mirror wearing another person's shoes. I cannot imagine what it has been like living under Taliban strong holds. I cannot images what it has been like living in a family who risks losing their home. Whether in the Middle East, or right here at home, there are people struggling with life and with death and with money and with love and with fear and...

It is moments like this I am thankful for everything that I have been given and worked hard to achieve, for all the people who have come in and out of my life and all the sacrifices others have made for me. I am not defiantly patriotic, nor extremely religious but I read something today that seemed quite fitting (minus the jesus part at the end):

"Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble."

So, now I do what I know best. Dive into my work, inspired by readings and try to create a more balanced world. I think there is a place for beauty in this world. I think there is a place for empathy and compassion. We can make change, even if it's quiet. Sit and meditate on that for awhile.


  1. Yes, the world needs more compassion & empathy but considering the thousands that perished because of this evil individual I don't believe OBL deserved compassion; he was a terrorist & murderer. Also, as a wife of a firefighter (one of those brave souls who run into burning buildings to save others) I can't help but think of those heroic individuals who attempted a futile response to the 9/11 "emergencies" knowing it would probably be their last call to action. I truly feel that justice has been served and an evil force has been eliminated. Maybe this event can provide some comfort, relief and even a little bit of closure for all those who lost someone on that terrible day. May we move on from here toward a more judicious "war on terror".

  2. Thanks for the comment, Melody. And thank you to the many men and women, your husband included, who fight and protect us both near and far. I truly am thankful for the country I live in.

    And I don't think Bin Laden deserves compassion; I agree he was a horrible man. I definitely do not claim to have all the answers. And perhaps I cannot understand the closure than over 3,000 families now have that he is finally dead. I wish them all peace in their hearts. Thank you for helping me understand a little better. You see, the posts I saw on Facebook this morning were dreadful-- pictures of OBL slain, coordinates of the attack, celebrating more death only because it was death of evil.

    This world we live in can be a confusing one, indeed. Perhaps, my post came off that way because I approach the recent events not with elation that there is one less bad man, but sadness of the total picture of our world. And perhaps a counter to that IS moving forward in a more compassionate, empathetic and as you say, judicious way.

    This was the link that quote referred to:

    Be well,

  3. Yeah. Its a nasty business all around, isn't it? I know that for many, the death of this man provides closure, justice. And this is completely understandable. However, the cheering, jeering, flag waving etc. doesn't sit well with me. Its a tragedy that this man sought to do such evil and a tragedy that it required such violent retaliation. All in all, it is somber, nasty stuff and no where do I see any reason for jubilation and jello shots. But maybe that's just me.