Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Thing About Compassion

I learned something new about compassion from an old white guy the other day.  No, it wasn't the pope, nor was it a Mormon leader.  It was this guy:

It turns out that Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise has some pretty life lessons to share.  I am a big fan of Star Trek, The Next Generation.  There are many opinions regarding the best series, but this post is not about the merits of the various captains but about the lesson I learned from Picard.

Season 5 episode 23 is titled "I, Borg."  The Enterprise finds a lone survivor from the Borg collective (an alien race of cyborgs who assimilate entire races into their ships and destroy all individuality) at a crash site and bring him on the ship.  Jean-Luc does not like the Borg.  In a previous season he was abducted by the Borg and painfully turned into one of them.  He was later saved by his crew, but he despises the Borg and sees this surviving member as an opportunity to destroy the entire race.  Through the episode Picard comes to see this rescued survivor as a person in need of help and returns him to the Borg without a doomsday virus.

This episode struck a chord with me because I watched it the day after the Pope met with the Kentucky County Clerk refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  I don't know what they talked about, and I don't know why they met, but it really bothered me.  I thought that there are plenty of people more deserving of a papal visit than this woman, and that she did not need another day in the spotlight.  That is when I learned something about compassion.

Compassion is a concern for the well being of others.  It isn't just about concern for the people we like; it is a concern for all people.  It is easy to care for the sick, poor, and disabled.  Actually, let me rephrase that: it is not easy to care for the sick, poor, and disabled, but we do it anyways.  I can stand behind the downtrodden and give them a loving hug and encouragement, but it is much harder (nearly impossible) for me to care for those different from me.  It seems that the more different a worldview a person has from me, the more difficult it is for me to care about their troubles.  

I need to change.

I don't know how to do this, but I will start in small steps.  Maybe the first step is to just look at the person different than me and just recognize them as a fellow traveller and rather than mock their opinions I should learn why these ideas are important to them.  

This really isn't going to be easy.