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Compassion in Action Can Make a Difference

By Luke D., Grade 11
At the risk of sounding a bit depressing, let's face it, our world can be messed up. Think about it: conflict and war, inequality and poverty, environmental pollution, discrimination, corruption, injustice and the violation of human rights, just to name a few examples. But why are humans driven to cause these outcomes? Is it insatiable greed for power some leaders have, or is it our innate fear of weakness and failure? Either way, our world has a void, a void that will destroy us if it is not filled.
But hope is not lost, and although it may sound cliché, one realistic way to fill this void is by showing kindness and compassion to others. I’m not saying that doing something nice for a person will end all conflict in the world, but the impact that it has on a smaller scale can lead to larger-scale progress.
For example, take a school environment like Stanstead College. I’m sure we can all agree that constantly striving for your best in academics while doing the same in sports can be mentally and physically exhausting. As a result, some people may feel depressed and anxious, emotions that do not go well together. Trying to deal with all these negative emotions on your own is not an easy task, and it may even lead to more stress in the future. This is why we constantly need to be checking in with people and lending a helping hand. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own routines and own worries that we just do not recognize when people around us are hurting, but when we do notice that someone is experiencing hardship in their lives, the most important thing for you to do is to act.  
You see, compassion is often confused with sympathy. While sympathy means you can understand what a person is feeling, compassion is the absolute willingness to do something to relieve the suffering of another. Although both are positive in their own ways, demonstrating compassion can have more of a lasting impact on someone’s life than sympathizing with them. To show this impact, I’ll share a quick story with you  by writer John W. Schlatter:
A young man named Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed that a boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove, and a small tape recorder.
Mark knelt and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped the boy carry part of the burden. As they walked, he discovered the boy’s name was Bill. He loved video games, baseball and history, and he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects.
They arrived at Bill’s home first, and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and shared small talk; then Mark went home.
They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together, then graduated from junior high. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally, the long-awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.
Bill reminded Mark of the day years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I was going home to take my own life.”
Bill told Mark that he realized that he didn’t want to die after spending time together talking and laughing. “I would have missed that time with you and many other good times in my life that followed. Mark, I am trying to say that you did a lot more when you picked up those books that day. You saved my life.”
I know it’s not always as easy as it sounds, but lending a helping hand to someone can have a lasting effect on them, and you may even save a person’s life. Don’t just look at someone having a bad day and show sympathy; exhibit compassion and fill the void in our world, because one day, you might need the same thing. And who knows, if we all show a little bit of compassion, maybe we can change the world.