Every year on this day, I write a reflection to commemorate 9/11. But I write not just to commemorate; I also write to make meaning, and to look forward. The idea is not to fix the memory of the day in stone, but to bring some aspect of it to life in a new way – to resurrect, if you will, something essential from that time. And this year, today, one word comes to mind:
On that day, and in the days that followed in New York City, I experienced compassion everywhere. Complete strangers helping each other, consoling each other, or simply just being with each other. The line to volunteer at the disaster site stretched thousands of people long, wrapping around a city block. People filled the parks, the cathedrals and the healing centers to be together, give aid to those who needed it, and to make art.
Here we are, sixteen years later. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, our world is filled with compassion. And yet, somehow, it seems like we need more compassion, now more than ever. On one hand, our world seems gripped with great fear, anger and hatred. On the other hand, it seems like love and compassion are finding ways to grow, just as a tree grows through the crack in a city sidewalk.
We need more of that.
Disasters seem to bring compassion out of us – just look at the events of the past two weeks, with all the stories of heroism we have seen. We know that for every one we read, there are many more small acts of compassion we don’t hear about. Deep down, we are compassionate people.
But now we need compassion in unending supply, not just in times of immediate strife, or emergencies that unfold right in front of us, but for times of heartbreak that might fall far from home, across the world, and in times of seemingly small setbacks and trials. Let’s face it, every day somewhere on earth, there is cause for compassion.
So my invitation to you, dear reader, is this: let’s take it upon ourselves to show compassion, and speak out for it, as often as we can. It is easy, perhaps, to show compassion for someone close to you, or someone who is going through a struggle you can relate to. It may get a little more difficult when that person, or group of people, lives far away, or seems at first glance very different from us.
And most difficult, perhaps is to show compassion for those who we actively disagree with, or hold deep anger toward. But these times call for us to do that, too. It doesn’t mean we need to agree with them, or condone their words or behavior. But it does call on us to understand, as best we can, how they might’ve come to hold their views, and what their experience might be like.
That may take a little critical thinking, some information-gathering, and a little imagination. But we, as human beings, have that capability.
Today is as good a day as any to renew our commitment to expressing – indeed, insisting on – living more compassionate lives, isn’t it?
I honor your loving heart,