“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” - Nelson Mandela
The news from Paris, Syria, Beirut, along with so many other war torn, impoverished and disaster riddled places in the world, can prompt many reactions. But after revenge fantasies or overwhelming sadness recedes from our minds, we are often left with hopelessness and guilt. Afterall, what can be done? And so we mourn and suffer in a small way ourselves. If nothing else, it seems a gesture of solidarity.
Once we are done mourning, we carry on and let the suffering go, as we must to continue our own lives. But this hopelessness and it’s ensuing apathy may bother many of us as it often hums below the surface of our blessed lives, surfacing when distraction is scarce.
For those who continue to find themselves moved by the suffering of others . . . here are a few ideas on how to acknowledge, turn toward and embrace human suffering with hope.
Recognize that it is okay that you are not suffering right now. This can even be celebrated. Not because you have escaped misfortune, but because you can take your blessings and be a source of joy, hope, grace and love in the world.
Acknowledge that suffering is awful, that each event is uniquely challenging, that each person affected feels the tragedy fully, and that suffering will always be. This does not mean one turns away or comforts themselves by blaming the suffer. But it does mean you accept suffering as a constant of the human condition. When suffering happens far away, outside our range of experience, empathy can be difficult. The best way to honor those who suffer is to understand, know and empathize.
Don’t be reactive -- slipping into rage, wishing things were different, or replaying an event in your mind -- does nothing to help the suffering. You are only injuring yourself with negativity, which takes away your power to help and may actually cause more suffering to you or those around you.
Be the light that suffering people need. Once you hear the news and feel the grief, take action. If you can help in any way, make an effort, even if it’s small. A $5 donation to a GoFundMe account, a public show of support, or a letter or email written to someone with influence. If you cannot help those suffering far away, then work to embrace and relieve the suffering that takes place every day around you. Be a light in your own world and your own circle of control and influence.
Looking for hope in the world today? Read this inspiring essay by poet Naomi Shihab Nye. And here are some ways you can help those in Paris, according to USA Today.