Sometimes I wonder where the "old" me went. I used to be such a softie. The turmoil and pain in this world would hover in my head, sticking around long after the news was over and the television was turned off. How will all those people survive after their homes were destroyed in (insert your natural disaster of choice)? We need to help those poor cats dying in the shelters. And on and on and on. I rarely watched the news, which is how my NPR addiction began. I could hear the news, I just couldn't see it. Watching the suffering of so many would invade my dreams at night. It's not that I thought those things would ever happen to me, or that I was worried about something bad happening to my family. I wasn't really thinking about myself. But I was thinking. Always.
A heartfelt commercial would nearly make me cry. Now we don't even watch commercials. And news stories fly by my eyes on the many screens in my life. News pops up on Yahoo when I check my email. It is right there on Examiner when I log in to submit a new article. My facebook friends often post videos and links to noteworthy news stories. Even my company intranet home page offers up a slice of the daily news pie. Between work, my blackberry, keeping up with my friends on facebook, working as the Columbus International Adoption Examiner, managing the steady stream of electronic information sent from our church and the various groups we belong to, and keeping track of the numerous websites I enjoy I get a lot of screen time. And nearly every new screen opportunity provides a glimpse into the crazy and the funny, and yes, the suffering of this world. And I skip over almost every one of them.
I no longer tolerate slow movies or television shows. I find myself thinking, more and more often, just how stupid people are. Sometime I worry that I might be losing my compassion. There is just too much information out there and I think it is creating a hard shell around my heart. I was always proud of my compassionate nature. Now there are days that I just wish the world, and everyone in it, would stay outside. There are days when I lock the door of my heart and refuse entrance to all but a select few.
Funny thing, compassion. I can find myself one moment watching the news and feeling nothing, or worse, maybe feeling slight contempt for those on the screen. And then the next moment my lap will be full of a small boy needing a hug or wanting to show me some treasure he found under the sofa and my heart is suddenly so full I could cry. I can cluck my tongue at my neighbors for letting their small children play in the street without even considering that perhaps it is a single mom running the household. But then I will turn around and make my husband dinner exactly the way he likes it. I wonder if it is normal to reach a point in one's life where you seem to only care about your friends and family. Don't get me wrong, I care about the world. I feel very deeply about the orphans of this world. I sympathize with the families and caregivers of those afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease. I just no longer have the time to shoulder the world's suffering. Maybe that is how it is supposed to work. Maybe we are each to find our places in this world, that place where our heart opens and the compassion flows. Maybe what I sense as a lack of compassion in myself in not truly a breakdown of the system. Maybe my lack of compassion in one area of this world is where someone else's heart has been set.