At times I find myself comparing the world in its current state to a house where every room is so cluttered, dirty and out of order that I don’t even know where to begin. It is so overwhelming that I am tempted to just close the door, lock it and walk away. Hope that somebody else will deal with it. All I want is the sound of a river dancing on rocks, birds singing in the trees and the fragrance of wild flowers.
It has been this way over the past year. Every direction I turn, I encounter pressing needs, coming from individuals who find themselves in desperate circumstances. Their pain resonates with me deeply, yet the question of how to best offer assistance is a constant challenge. Recently it is the people who have lost everything in Maui, while at the same time a massive flood has made hundreds homeless in my own country, Norway.
The immense suffering endured by the people of Myanmar largely goes unnoticed. My heart aches for the Rohingya, confined within makeshift shelters in overcrowded Bangladeshi camps, for the Afghan population thrust into poverty by oppressive rulers, for the communities of Ukraine living under the weight of Russia's brutal attacks, for the children in Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. The list seems to never end. Will a donation of 50 dollars, or even 100, make a difference? Or will it be like picking up a single sock from a floor onthe brink of chaos? A gesture that remains unseen, as the disorder persists on a monumental scale.
I've observed a similar sense of weariness in others as well. People give less, do less and care less. Not because of callousness or selfishness, but likely because they feel like I do: Where to begin? And does it truly matter? I can spend my 50 dollars on a meal at an Italian restaurant instead. The world won't be markedly better or worse as a result. However, I do believe that if a substantial number of us each pick up a metaphorical sock or undertake a similar small act within the cluttered house, progress can be achieved. Just as if a multitude of us contribute our 50 dollars, we can collectively make an impact on alleviating suffering and filling empty stomachs. The prospect of constructing hospitals and schools becomes feasible.
I also think that when we lose our desire to care and stop feeling compassion for others, something inside us die. We are created to care of others. It connects us, motivates usto reach out and help. It gives purpose and meaning. In fact, doing acts of compassion may help us stay present, engaged and open-hearted as we move through our own challenges in our lives. So, insteadof withdrawing from what is painful, turn toward obstacles and offer yourself and others your attention and support. Science confirms that when we do this, our state changes, our reward system is activated, and a sense of well-being is amplified.
Tackling the challenges of all the human suffering in the world is not possible. Nobody can do that.“But compassion calls upon us to engage with suffering by being sensitive and open to it writes Paul Gilbert in his book, Mindful Compassion. It is a simple and basic way of relating to the world. You value caring and you take action to express that care. It is actively protecting, supporting, teaching, and being generous toward yourself and the world around you. It’s a way of showing heartfelt concern for the welfare of all people.
When there is more suffering in the world, I don’t want to care less. It is not good for me, nor the world. Instead, I am committed to finding a spot on the floor and starting from there. While it might not get attention from the masses, its impact is meaningful. Step by step, I am tidying the house.
Your brain and heart evolved to be caring. “Love is the answer, at least to most of the questions in my heart,” sings Jack Johnson, and concludes with the chorus: “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we are together.” Together we show compassion for the suffering people of the world. Because, love is the answer.
Hanna is from Kharkiv. Last week, she went back to her war-torn home.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out, ‘Stop!’