If there is one thing I have strengthened in myself through dealing with a life changing illness, that is “COMPASSION”.

Compassion, by definition is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.”

Since I have become handicapped from my MS, my eyes have been opened to the day to day struggles of others.  When I see another person using a walker, a scooter or even a cane, I flex my “compassion” muscles.  I understand what they are going through to some degree, as I’m going through it myself.    Even though I’m not physically able to help them I find myself more emotionally supportive, whether it be just an understanding smile, a simple hello, a small conversation, and sometimes a full out discussion about life in general.

Believe it or not, when people become wheelchair or scooter bound they almost become invisible to some able bodied people.  Not all able bodied people are like this but, trust me, there are many.  Strangers I meet along my way can’t even look me straight in the eye, won’t say hello, kind of ignore me to the point that I feel non-existent to them.  In actual fact it isn’t me that is invisible.  They definitely see me.  It’s that person’s inability to know what to say.   They just don’t know how to handle someone who is different from them.  I don’t know the answer for sure but this is what I think is happening in this person’s mind.

I have been right at a door entrance to a mall or doctor’s office, for example, and the person in front of me, who know’s I’m right behind them, does not hold the door open.  They pass through the entrance themselves and carry on with no regard for this handicapped person following behind them.  It amazes me.  I just shake my head and let it pass.

Through conversations about this with those close to me, we have decided that these people lack compassion and are uncomfortable, not knowing what to say.

It takes “compassion” to motivate a person to go out of their way to help someone else who may be struggling physically, mentally or emotionally.  Compassion is an emotion of allowing ourselves to be affected by someone else’s struggle and want to help alleviate some of it.  It is a kindness like no other.

There is a difference between sympathy and compassion.  Sympathy responds to suffering with concern and sorrow.  Compassion is a response of warmth and care.

In a Berkeley University article I read about the topic of compassion the author defines compassion as “to suffer together”.  It is a feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

Bottom line here.  Compassion can really brighten the day of a person with any kind of struggle, whether it be physical, emotional or mental.  Next time you come across someone who is disabled in any way…flex your “COMPASSION” muscles and lend them a smile, a hello or a helping hand.  It will make you feel good while you help to make someone else’s day a little better.  A little compassion goes a very long way.

Thank you for your helping hand.

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