The Power of Compassion

Sympathy looks in and says, “I’m sorry.Sympathy looks in and says, "I'm sorry.
Compassion goes in and says, "I’m with you.

Sympathy looks in and says, "I would like to help."
Compassion goes in and says, "I am here to help."

Sympathy says, "I wish I could carry your burden."
Compassion says, "Cast your burden on me."

Sympathy often irritates with many words.
Compassion helps and hears in quietness and understanding.

-Author Unknown

There is a difference between sympathy and compassion that demonstrates the critical effect of compassion in another person's life.

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.

Sympathy looks in and says, “I’m sorry.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, that he loved video games, baseball, history, and that 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 watched some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk; then Mark went home.

They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once in a while, then both graduated from junior high school. 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 didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills, and I was going home to commit suicide.’

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. I am trying to say, Mark, that you did a lot more when you picked up those books that day. You saved my life.”

Compassion is a character trait that is present in everyone.  However, it is also a trait that sometimes gets forgotten.  It is both innate and can be learned and enhanced.  It is something you can develop with practice.  It involves two things:  intention and action. The intention is simply opening your heart to others, and action is what you do about it.

We never know when how we react or respond affects those we come in contact with.  Mark’s act of compassion saved a life, and we might do that without ever knowing it, but there are ways we can show compassion to our family or the people we meet every day.

Here are some real-world ways we can show compassion every day.

  • Regardless of how we feel about the effectiveness of wearing a mask during this pandemic, we must do it wherever we are asked to.  Whether it eases another person’s fears or keeps the virus from spreading, it shows compassion.
  • Open the door for someone.  I find this to be such a kind gesture.
  • Motivate others. Words give life to ideas. Use your words to inspire others to participate in the promised future and the change they need.
  • Practice acts of kindness. Not long after I had breast cancer surgery, I was at Walmart trying to lift a hefty package to put in my buggy.  Suddenly a person said, “Let me help you with that.”  After I checked out, I took the buggy out to my car and opened the trunk. Another person said, “Maam, let me lift that for you.”  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.
  • Allocate time to bond with friends and family. Do more than text.  Make a phone call or a visit.
  •  Words are so important.  They can break you down or lift you.  Always share encouraging words.  We never know when someone’s life depends on it.
  • Share a hug or a handshake. I know about the Coronoviris, but I also know the power of touch.
  • Incorporate the phrase "thank you" into your daily routine.  We can touch the heart of a perfect stranger by using the words, “Thank you, sir, or thank you, ma’am.”
  • Offer to help someone with their to-do list or any other thing you see that may need.

Mark decided to open his heart to another person in need.  He could have walked on past without giving a second thought.  But he didn’t.  He decided to help and, in doing so, he saved a person’s life.

It was a small gesture and only took a few moments for all that to happen, but that is how compassion works. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “We cannot always do great things on this earth.  We can only do small things with great love.”

Imagine what would have happened if Mark had only shaken his head in sympathy and walked on. We never know what a difference we can make in someone's life when we show compassion.

Author's Image
Deana Landers
Author for

I have had many roles in life
Pastor’s Wife , Mom/Nana , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer , Christian Speaker
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories, either in my head or in my journal.

[Read full bio]

Story Comments

  1. Well said Aunt Ladita. I just love all your stories. I wish you could find a spot on Facebook because so many people need to hear this and you never know who may need this. I love you

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Teresa. You can help me by sharing my stories on Facebook. I write for a newspaper and a magazine too, but I love to share on FB. Love you,

  2. Maria -

    Listening is the key and being compassionate about what you hear even if it’s something you can’t relate! I’m trying to listen more and not so quick to react

    • Deana Landers -

      Me too, Maria. It is important to listen. Thank you, my friend.Deana

  3. What a beautiful post. I really appreciate this.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you so much, Meegan. Deana

  4. Love that quote from Mother Teresa. Thank you for sharing this compassionate story,

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Brooke. I love that quote, too.Deana

  5. Kindness now more than ever, please! tbh...I will never shake hands again...corona plus my hand's repetitive motion injury...but a fist bump or clasped hands with a slight bow work also work wonders -:D

    • Deana Landers -

      I agree, Cat. Handshakes may be a thing of the past:) But I hope hugs aren't. Thank you.Deana

  6. Working in aged care we have to be very compassionate, and the residents reactions to any small gesture just makes my day.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you, Anita. I know exactly what you mean working with aged patients and residents. It is the small things that mean a lot.Deana

  7. Sirisha Reddy -

    hey, that's truly a great story. I can relate to it. At times, it was compassion that pushed me through hard times.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you. I'm glad that compassion helped you get through hard times. We all need compassion for ourselves and others.Deana

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