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Compassion Fatigue

Sisters and brothers in Christ,


As I have shared before, my daily prayer practice begins before I get out of bed. I need to know (remind myself) that God is already at work in the world, in the lives of all people, in the work and prayers of our Trinity community before my feet hit the floor. I read the news, pray through the headlines, pray for those on my prayer list, and pray for all of you. There is simply no way I can navigate the day without this prayerful conversation with the One who Creates, Renews, Heals, and Sustains everything. This morning I prayed to God about "compassion fatigue," which is a real thing in our times; there is simply too much to take in–the suffering and death from the pandemic, climate change weather events, devastation in Haiti, terror, fear and violence in Afghanistan, and the constant yelling and fighting about seemingly everything in schools, on airplanes, on social media. The temptation is to block it all out, because we feel impotent to do anything; powerless in the face of so much pain and discord. Hard to breathe, much less face the day with a compassionate and soft heart. Lord, have mercy. Lord, give me an open and contrite heart.


My prayers were answered. How often can one say that? God showed me something that helped me get my feet on the floor. People–brothers and sisters–people like us. The challenges and tragedies are not amorphous problems "out there" but are happening to actual, particular people.

  • A friend in DC is working to get his brother and nephews out of Kabul and asked me to help them connect with Episcopal Migration Ministries

  • A Trinity parishioner is working round the clock to get Afghan citizens who helped US troops out of Kabul airport.

  • A young mom shared with me how relieved she is that students and teachers in our local schools will be required to be masked, so she can send her children off next week with more peace of mind.

  • An older mom shared with me that her vaccinated adult daughter who was very sick with covid-19, is slowly recovering.

  • Trinity Concord welcomed a family on Monday in order to have a funeral before the 20 year old who lost her mom unexpectedly, had to leave for college.


Each story is personal, particular. The suffering is real and extends to the friends and family and communities of which all these people are a part. When I realized this, I was able to pray; no longer feeling overwhelmed by the amount of pain. What God showed me is that compassion fatigue is overcome when we remember that we are all God's beloved children; we will all suffer in particular ways. Our compassion is possible, with God's help, because of the Incarnation. Jesus came to us as a particular person, he suffered, died, and rose again. When we pray for actual, incarnate people--that is, people like us--people whose names we may know, and people whose names we do not know, we can access in ourselves that compassion Jesus has for each of us. So I will pray for Amoud AND all the people of Afghanistan, for Paul AND all the service men and women and volunteers who are helping; for Mary and her children AND for all students, parents and teachers; for Dr. Amy AND all the front-line healthcare workers; for Pia and her Dad as they grieve AND for all who grieve the loss of family and friends.


Our prayers matter. As people who are joined into Christ, we, in our bodies, can pray and act with love and compassion for ourselves and others when we see them in their full humanity. This is the antidote to compassion fatigue!


In a Diocesan meeting this week, this poem was offered as an opening prayer. I commend it as a poetic summary of how we might live into these days with prayer and compassion.


Finally, below is news from two of our local ministry partners, Open Table and Concord Prison Outreach. I hope you will pray for those who are hungry in our towns and for our neighbors who live in prison. Each one a person, just like you and me. May you boldly pray; bringing everything before God in faith.


In Christ,

Nancy+


image: By U3190523 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93665872

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