It’s easy to provide for those we care for and natural for parents, especially, to want to lavish love, attention and gifts on their children. This is a biblical pattern after God’s own heart. Yet we can miss such a lot if we don’t slow down sometimes, really notice what is going on around us – not just within our own circles – and act with compassion. Though we may prefer to close our eyes to the fact, there are a lot of needy people out there who are desperate for help and attention.

How are we supposed to act or react to their need? Let’s try not be quick to judge or condemn others. It can often take something shocking in our own lives (or those close to us) to wake us up to the fact that at times we can all be hurting people who need to be recognised as such and given appropriate help and support.

Compassion isn’t new. The Bible story of  The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25 – 37 is familiar to many of us. Jesus uses it as an illustration to answer the question, “And who is my neighbour?”

“Love cannot be divided. If it is genuine it serves God and the neighbour in the same act. Or better, it sees God in the neighbour and the neighbour in God” ~ Carlo Carretto

The neighbour question remains valid today – particularly as we have all become ‘global neighbours’ to one another. I’ve previously been challenged in my thinking about compassion and the need of ‘Reaching out a Hand’ to others by reading ‘Wrecked’ by Jeff Goins. Another inspiring book is ‘Graffiti: scribbles from different sides of the street’ by Alene Snodgrass. You won’t be the same once you’ve read either of them, as you will find yourself looking for more ways to be compassionate, although helping others can be demanding, time-consuming and messy work.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish” ~ Henri Nouwen

A few months ago I had an opportunity to show compassion towards someone and, I’m ashamed to say – I completely flunked it. 

 Voices disturbed my sleep. We live close to a pub and it’s relatively common to hear late-night revellers dispersing homeward at weekends. Gradually, all other sounds faded apart from persistent, plaintive cries for help.


I was tucked up in bed while my Other Half sat downstairs, relatively immune to the sound (due to wearing headphones when listening to music/films at his preferred volume). I lay there listening, wondering what to do. How could I (seriously weakened by M.E and chronic sickness) go outside in my PJs in the cold – to find goodness knows what – and assist a guy who was potentially drunk and disorderly?

Should I alert my man? He would definitely be concerned, yet wary and worried about getting involved because of his crippling social phobia. Ordinary, everyday encounters are hard enough for him – never mind this. He may be a hero to me in his daily love and care but he was far from ‘Superman saves the day’ material.

Thus went my reasoning. Thus went my ability to help – out the window, mingling with the cries. I got up to take a peep but couldn’t see a thing or tell precisely where the repeated lament was coming from. Other voices were heard. People were coming to his aid. An ambulance was called. Phew…
My OH glanced out the window to see what all the commotion was about. The guy was taken care of with concern and compassion – by others. I gave myself every excuse possible, but the bottom-line was I didn’t act like Jesus would do in caring for another person. I put my own needs above theirs. Being compassionate isn’t always easy or straightforward and we may have to exercise compassion toward ourselves for those times we mess up. 

Being compassionate can take many forms:
  • Comforting a friend –  or anyone in need.
  • Visiting –  the sick, lonely, bereaved, elderly or housebound.
  • Sending cards –  to let others know we remember them.
  • Being a listening ear –  for a friend or stranger.
  • Giving our time and attention –  especially when it’s inconvenient to do so.
  • Taking action –  to encourage and support others.
  • Giving practical help –  according to our abilities.
  • Praying for –  the needs of others.
  • Preparing a meal – for those unable to face the task or without the means to do so.
  • Volunteering –  to assist in a community outreach whether local, national or international.
Whatever our own particular set of circumstances may be, there are always ways, large or small,  in which we can help and support other people and show them grace and mercy in their time of need.