Compassion ADHD

In the thesaurus, one of the most highly recommended synonyms for compassion is sorrow. All the other listings in this highly recommended category depict ways we treat our fellow humans. Even though sorrow isn’t really a synonym for compassion, I’m glad they included it. To be compassionate, one is often opened up to sorrowful feelings. We want to be compassionate, but it’s difficult to continue that compassion knowing the sadness it can lead to.

This photo tugged at people’s hearts worldwide. Yet in September 2016 (a year later), there wasn’t much change to be seen.

One common way to balance being compassionate with becoming mired in sorrow seems to be fleeting moments of compassion. We see something on the news or in an online article that pulls at our hearts, then we go about our days. How do we determine when this is understandable coping, and when this ignores the plight of our fellow human beings? Students in NYU’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab conducted a study examining the fleeting nature of our compassion.

Their study looks particularly at Google Trends data and Twitter data. Their report explains the importance of using online data to analyze human response: “Social media data provide new insight into how the world watches a humanitarian disaster unfold in real time. In particular, the temporal granularity and networked structure of Twitter data provide key insights into what events grab global attention, how perceptions of refugees shift over time, and whose narratives about refugees gain traction” (NYU).

What the NYU study found in online data can be seen on a day to day basis as well. I visited the Jefferson Camp in Darmstadt, a former U.S. military base that currently houses refugees. Social workers organizing the camp said there were lots of volunteers for the first six months; now it’s extremely difficult to find willing volunteers. Of course for all of the scenarios when we feel compassion with little or no action, there are times when compassion is at its best. This weekend, we visited a small town in Germany that renovated a hotel into a residence for refugees. When they needed winter clothes for many of their approximately 700 residents, so many clothes were dropped off they had to turn people away.

Our minds behave fleetingly, and that’s not our fault. We do, however, need to work to act on our compassion. Instead of feeling sorry for someone, think about how you can help them. It doesn’t need to be direct to make a difference, maybe it helps the group of people. Overall, the important idea is to stop feeling sorry and start doing something about it.

Visit the International Rescue Committee website to see how you can help them make a difference.
Kylie Bowman
Kylie is first and foremost flattered that you have read this far. Thank you for doing so! A 2017 graduate from the University of Wisconsin Stout, Kylie looks forward to finding a job that fits her passions for creating content, editing, and working with interesting topics. In the meantime, she is grateful to be involved in this Digital Refuge/e blog and have the freedom to pursue her creative endeavors.

3 Replies to “Compassion ADHD”

  1. Kylie, you are amazing. You hit the nail squarely on the head…. just think how good one feels inside, when we actually do something for someone in need. That sorrow disappears for a moment.

    thank you forvreminding us how to truly make the world better., one good deed at a time. And your posts on this trip.

  2. We all are complicit in the fleeting attention span. The problem seems so overwhelming that we see no way go respond, thus we can then pass it by. I am hopeful that with things such as your posts we can see our way past the vitriol and do something concrete to help these people.

  3. I think we all feel the sorrow but then what is it that stops us from acting? Am I too far away to hold a hand or lift a tired body? Am I too caught up in my own responsibilities to take on another thing? Am I afraid that this will suck me dry and leave me empty and angry and hopeless? For myself I think it can be all of these things. What I have discovered is that when you do something you find out it does make a difference. It does leave us feeling that something can be done. It does give our lives meaning. Thanks, Kylie, for helping all of us to think about these things. Bring back more stories for us to hear and act upon.

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