Compassion is Particular

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Photo Credit: kke227 via Compfight cc

Madeline L’engle says “Compassion is particular, it is never general,” to explain why we can feel the pain of those near us so much more than a generic statistic or a news story about a stranger. In this section of A Circle of Quiet, she talked about the need for community and the real connection and avenues for compassion it can create if we let it.

I know three women who have had still-born babies in the last two months. None were close friends, I’ve only met one in person. But we attend the same church, one is in my sister’s small group so there is a sense of connection. Another lives two blocks from my house, though we have never met. As I sit to nurse my  three month old son, sometimes I cry. I cry for my mothers with empty arms. I cry for the baby I lost to miscarriage five years ago and wonder what he or she would have looked like. The grief weighs heavy, and at times I let it. Usually I don’t let the grief in because I am too busy or too afraid that if I let it in, I may not be able to stop it and I will be overwhelmed. The tears come as I stand doing dishes and feeling angry at the mess, not so much the mess in my kitchen as the mess the world is in. It wasn’t meant to be this way.

One of the strange things about technology is that it can both isolate and yet create community depending on how you use it. There are women I’ve followed on blogs and Facebook forums, who I’ve never met in person and yet I can pray and grieve for them. But for these dear, flesh and blood women in my community, I don’t know what to do.

But in all cases, whether far or near I feel powerless. I want to do something. I want to bring food, or send a card, yet it all feel so presumptuous. I don’t really know these women, these brave mothers who must move forward, keep living and continue breathing when at times that alone must feel like too much to bear.  I can’t even begin to understand their loss, but I also know that we are called to grieve with those who grieve. How do I do that?

I’m not sure I know how, but I can’t pretend it hasn’t happened.  So I think of those little babies by name, those and the many others lost at different gestations and ages over the years by myself and others I know. And when I don’t have the words to pray, I cry and ask God to comfort those who mourn.

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