Whilst eating my porridge and drinking my coffee in McDonalds in Birmingham City Centre this morning I was shocked to see the amount of homeless men around, waiting for some compassion from those around them. I know there are lots of conflicting emotions and opinions for us on this subject, and I’m not raising this to make any point about homelessness. However, I was heartbroken to see the desperation in these men’s faces and the lack of empathy and understanding from those around them.
Not everyone of course – the man I watched the most who was asking people for the stickers off their coffee cups so he could get a hot drink, eventually got enough and had his drink. Some people didn’t respond well to him and I don’t know anything about their lives of course so not passing any judgement here, but it did make me reflect on our society and it raised this question.
Have we become de-sensitised to other peoples’ pain?
Most of my time is spent either with adoptive parents or with school staff working with traumatised children and young people. Some of these adults are exhausted and their compassion is spent. They have poured out day to day endless amounts of emotional investment into those around them and they are just fatigued.
Others of us may feel disillusioned by trying to help or get support from places that don’t seem to care. Parents have knocked down the doors of Social Services, CAMHS, Doctors, Educational specialists to little avail. I get that, it can be totally soul destroying.
But as I sat there in my comfortable life eating my porridge I couldn’t help but feel helpless to make a difference. My little stickers that I gave this man helped him to get a drink but so what? I’ve heard this (and felt it myself) from parents and education staff “it’s just too little, too late”. It can feel like the damage is too great to be able to make a difference.
So, what if we did just give in to these feelings of exhaustion, disillusionment, helplessness? What would become of the people around us and us for that matter?
Please don’t misunderstand me, we all need time to rest and look after ourselves. We do need to be able to recognise when we need help and to ask for it. But, I know that there is so much we gain from helping others too. We can make a difference. Whatever you may think – your smile can make someone’s day. The stickers I gave to that man helped him – yes, it’s not going to transform his life but for a moment I hope it gives him some relief.
There is so much pain in the world, it can feel overwhelming. When I hear of the circumstances that some children have to live in, or have experienced, it breaks my heart. On the days when I feel like a not so good Mum to my children I think of their lives before and what might have become of them. It gives me hope that the love I feel for them can make a difference to how they feel about themselves and give them hope for their future.
So, today when you’re rushing around doing your life take a moment to look around. Who can you see that you might be able to show compassion to?
- A child who looks sad in the playground,
- A parent who looks exhausted and at the end of their rope,
- A colleague who just needs to have a laugh, or the space to reflect and breathe?
Let’s not become de-sensitised to others’ pain but open to help take the weight off them, if even just for a moment.