Overcoming my compassion fatigue

With everything going on right now in national politics and the world, there are a lot of things that I feel I ought to care about. I’m pretty sure you all know what I mean. With the presidential election coming up later this year and the things happening in the Middle East with Iran and the earthquake in Puerto Rico and the whole climate change issue, it’s becoming overwhelming to try to focus on what I actually should spend my time caring about. I have a lot of empathy and it causes me to be very concerned for people who are in need and in pain, but after a while, it’s just completely overwhelming and I start to shut down and back away because if I don’t, I will completely fall apart. I have to separate myself from it in order to maintain my sanity. There’s just TOO MUCH.

But I can’t just ignore it all or just decide not to care about any of it, either. I have to find a way to make it more manageable for me to address. If I keep on trying to figure out how to deal with all of these things, all at once, I’m never going to be able to make a difference about any of them.

The video below helps explain this a little bit. (Erica, you might not like it because it’s very Democratic and there is at least one swear word.) Specifically, starting at 3:35 minutes into the video, it starts talking about compassion fatigue.

So my plan for this year is to find a way to do one thing a month. Either volunteer somewhere or donate money to something or find a way to do something that helps address my concerns about the many, many things that are happening right now.

This month, I’m picking up trash. We went to the beach on Friday and we picked up trash on the beach. It was very windy and there wasn’t a lot to pick up, but we had a lovely time taking a walk. Yesterday, I picked up trash outside my house. I don’t know if it’s the grounds crew who cuts the grass or the regular maintenance guys who are supposed to do that, but they’re all very busy lately and the cigarette butts and trash around the place has gotten out of hand. So I went around my building and picked up what I could for a little while. And today I walked up the street where I do my regular walks and picked up trash that way, too. I mostly see this street in the dark and I knew there was a lot of trash. There was so much more that I could see during the daylight! It’s astonishing.

Picking up trash isn’t something that’s hard for me. It doesn’t require any money for me to do it (we already had the trash grabby thing and a trash bucket). It does require some time, but it’s time that I have available and time that I’m happy to put forward toward this effort. It requires my mobility, and my improved fitness certainly helped with this. And I certainly feel good about myself for having done this. I feel a little negative toward other people who are throwing all this trash all over the place. (Come on people! Pick up your trash!) But I still think I’ve managed to do a good thing. And that makes me feel better about myself and what I’m doing in my world.

I was out for about 2 hours and got 2 1/2 buckets full of trash. That first one (left) was going up the street where I walk and I had to turn back because it kept trying to fly out of the bucket. The top right was just outside my complex, the sidewalk beside the gas station. And the lower right was from the grass in the median of the street just outside my complex. Humanity as a whole, we are such trash goblins. So much garbage!

But you know what? I did something. It might not be much, but it was something and I can see the difference and I feel good about it! I can’t fix the whole world. But I can do something to make my corner of it a little brighter!

Pray for Haiti

Today is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that hit Haiti.  It killed 230,000 people.  A million and a half people were left homeless.  In the past year, they’ve been hit by flooding from a hurricane, faced a cholera outbreak that sickened 15,000 people and killed 3,000 more, and their government has been in chaos.

People are living in tents.  Buildings lay in ruins.  Recovery has been slow.

If you haven’t thought about Haiti in a while, please take a moment today to pray for that country.


I’m sure you’ve all heard about the tragic earthquake in Haiti by now.  If you haven’t, I’m not sure how you managed it.  It’s hard not to notice when the expected death toll is somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 people.

I hadn’t written about it yet because I didn’t know how to write about it.  I’m still not sure how to write about it.  But I feel the need to try.

As is typical for me, as soon as I heard about it, after the initial shock and horror and sorrow, my thought was “How could I get there to help?”  Are relief organizations taking volunteers?  Are churches organizing to get groups of people together to get in there to help?  Am I fit enough to help move rocks from the road and try to find survivors in the rubble?  If I took a week of vacation from work to go to Haiti, how would I get into the country to help those poor, devastated people?

And the truth of the matter is that I’m not an appropriate person to go to Haiti to help right now, even if I could find a way in.  I’m not skilled in the sort of work that needs to be done right now.  I’m not physically fit for the sort of work an unskilled laborer would be doing to help.  And being there would make me one more person who needs a place to sleep, food to eat, and water to drink in a country already filled with hundreds of thousands (or is it millions?) of people who have none of those basic necessities.

Beyond that, I don’t want to be the person coming back from that mission.  I don’t want to be the person who has seen that much pain and suffering.  I don’t want to be the person who walked along roads with bodies piled up and buried under collapsed buildings and who could do nothing but learn to accept that reality.  I don’t want to be the person who went to that city and had to learn how to accept that more people will die today from complications from their injuries, injuries that could have been saved with proper medical treatment; people will die from lack of food and water because the supplies couldn’t be distributed to the people who need it the most; people will die because I couldn’t help them fast enough, with the right skills or the right supplies.  I don’t want to be a person who can accept death on such a colossal scale and not be crushed under the sorrow of it all.

I’m not brave enough to be that person.  I would be broken so deeply, and have to become so hardened against it, that the woman who returned would not be the same woman who left.

My heart breaks for Haiti.  I’m praying for the people there and all the people going in to provide help.  Part of me says that I should get over the fear, go, and become a stronger person through it.  But I’m not sure I could withstand the shattering.