I’ve discovered that people who live in comfort sometimes say the dumbest things because their comfort robs them of their ability to care.
I absolutely hate the phrase ‘compassion fatigue’ and I always have. And today I hate it with more passion than I ever have. It seems to me that ‘compassion fatigue’ is a phrase which gets used by comfortable people who live in comfortable places with comfortable lives. Compassion fatigue is by definition a luxury.
Yesterday, I met a church leader who leads a church of 7,000 people. After talking to him for a while I about his amazing vision for his church I asked him: ‘what is your biggest personal challenge as a Christian in Haiti?’ His answer was: ‘my biggest challenge is that the need just keeps coming. And the more need you meet the need the more it just keeps coming.’ Was he a candidate for compassion fatigue? Yes. Did he have compassion fatigue? Absolutely not, because he doesn’t have the luxury of that choice.
Today we’ve spent the day with the church we might be working with to fund a building so they can run a Child Survival Programme (CSP). We took Nellie the Compassion ‘big blue elephant’ to their school (we’ve discovered that most schools in Haiti are in churches). At the school we met 200 amazing, fun and happy children – we played with the elephant and some with balloons with them. The joy on their faces was priceless.
Later, we stopped to film some of the Bible readings we’ll be looking at Spring Harvest. Three young boys joined our team for an hour. Initially they were full of bravado as only teenagers can be. As they began to trust us they began to tell us their stories.
Each had lost their parents in the earthquake, each had nowhere to live, each of them had nobody who cared about them. So they stuck together – three boys with nothing and nobody so they look after each other because they know its the only way they’ll survive.
Someone once said that ‘your perspective is shaped by what you see when you first open your curtains in the morning.’ I don’t know what you see when you open the curtains in the morning – I see a leafy street and the school opposite my house. I don’t see 600,000 people living in tents, I don’t see street children, I don’t see people scratching a living by selling stuff on the streets, I don’t see parents robbed of all their hopes and dreams, I don’t see children orphaned by an earthquake begging for food. I don’t see any of that.
Compassion fatigue says that ‘the needs are so great, and the little I can do won’t make a difference so I won’t even try.’ It’s a lie, an excuse and a choice that only comfortable people can make. Nobody I’ve met in Haiti has that choice or even if they did would make that choice – not the Compassion team, not the church leaders and definitely not three young street boys with nobody and nothing who’ve chosen to help their friends.
So if these people can find a place in their hearts to reach out and help, why can’t we? Because choice is a luxury only the comfortable have.
Stuff to think about…
Do ever think ‘the needs are so great, and the little I can do won’t make a difference so I won’t even try’?
If you do, what can you do to shake it off?
What is the biggest personal challenge to you being a Christian and a leader?