Bring What I Am Able #1000speak


Back in January, a friend told me about a budding movement of bloggers who wanted to spread compassion by getting 1000 people to write about it on the same day. It’s called 1000 Voices for Compassion and the day is here (read all the posts here).

I’ve had over a month to come up with it, to plan my post, to write something fantastic and deep. I wanted to come up with a groundbreaking concept that no one had ever thought of and had the power to change the world. Something BIG that would make a splash or at least make people cry. I knew I could tell a bunch of stories about compassion that I’ve witnessed but I kept getting sidetracked with these nagging thoughts:

Am I really as compassionate as I think I am? When it really matters in my little corner of the universe, do I do enough?

I’ve studied the definition of compassion: A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.

I’m really adept at the sympathy part. I care deeply about people, even ones I don’t particularly like. Who doesn’t feel sympathy when they hear about the atrocities happening in our world and right in our own backyards?

Author Mohsin Hamid wrote, “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” I’m really good at that.

But compassion requires something more. It’s the action component of compassion that seems to be lacking in the world (in my world). A strong desire to alleviate suffering isn’t enough. We have to do something about it.

Anne Lamott brilliantly wrote, “I’m a recovering higher power: I deeply want to fix and rescue everyone, but can’t.”

I bet a lot of people feel that way. I bet the knowledge that we can’t do it all keeps a lot of us from doing what we can.

Have you ever noticed how some people say ‘no problem’ in response to a thank you instead of ‘you’re welcome’? I’m guilty of that sometimes. I’ll say ‘no problem’ when what I did to help wasn’t particularly difficult for me and I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I didn’t have to try very hard. But since helping anyone in any form is a big deal for the recipient, brushing it off as ‘no problem’ seems rude.

I really hate it when I thank someone and they say, “Just doing my job.” But is that really so bad? When we have a strong desire to alleviate someone’s pain and jumping into action is our natural response, we are indeed doing our earthly jobs, doing what we were created to do. Help each other. Take care of each other. Give what we can. Jesus was pretty clear about that.

When my oldest sister died, I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of helping with the food for the memorial. Thank God, my other sister stepped in to organize it. It was something she felt capable of doing. I, on the other hand, had no problem calling funeral chapels and making the arrangements for her cremation. It was something I knew I could do. My brother used his skills to put together a photo memorial and my niece wrote a beautiful tribute for the memorial cards. Every single person who knew and loved her did what they could. Some just showed up, which is no small task. Some posted tributes on Facebook, cards and texts were sent and many hugs were given. In our own way we each took part in alleviating each other’s suffering. My mother, as she absorbed the reality of losing her oldest baby, was grateful for every effort, no matter how big or small.

If each of us offers what we’re able and gives it freely, we can change the world.

And when we’re faced with an opportunity to stretch outside our comfort zones and offer help that doesn’t come naturally to us, we can’t be so concerned with doing it right. Have you ever held back from offering help because you were afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing? I have. Those are some of my biggest regrets. I’m talking about little moments where a decision to act was needed; times I’ve turned my head away, hands I didn’t hold, items that went into the trash, pain I shyed away from, risks I was afraid to take, times I didn’t want to ‘get involved’. But when I look back at the times I tried to help someone and it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would or I even made it worse, it was still better than doing nothing.

If each of us risks offering compassion imperfectly, we can change the world.

So, my BIG and splashy point is to follow Yoda’s advice: “Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.” Or, if the little green dude’s backward talk confuses you: There is no try, only do.

DO think kind thoughts because our thoughts guide our actions.

DO share your gifts and talents to help others.

DO help people you don’t relate to, don’t like and don’t feel are deserving. Conditional compassion is a big NO.

DO let the words come out of your mouth even if you think you’ll sound dumb.

DO reach out even if you think you’ll be rejected.

DO what you know, do what you can, bring what you’re able.


The world’s on fire and

It’s more than I can handle

I’ll tap into the water

(Try and bring my share)

I try to bring more

More than I can handle

(Bring it to the table)

Bring what I am able

– Sarah McLachlan, World on Fire

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. – Pema Chödrön

40 thoughts on “Bring What I Am Able #1000speak

  1. Oh, Karen, this made a huge splash in the puddle of my heart. Each word was precisely placed, like brilliant crystals hung in the night sky of Soul.

    I must tell you, I am such a fan. And this:

    “If each of us risks offering compassion imperfectly, we can change the world.”

    Such Truth.

    Beautifully written, friend.

    With heart,


  2. But it WAS big and splashy! So big and splashy that it leaves me a bit speechless and incapable of putting together a coherent, Karen-worthy comment, but I know you’ll forgive me.

    I am terribly sorry about your sister. I didn’t know. Just like I said in my comment to your comment, your ability to combine deep analytical thinking with such intense emotion is uncanny.

    I completely agree with whoever made that comment about FP.

    Reading this has made me so happy to have made your acquaintance.



    1. Thank you, Katia. Coming from you, a woman whose voice I respect tremendously, that means so much. I realized today how easy it sounds to be compassionate in our daily lives as I cursed the slow driver in front of me. It made me laugh at how flawed we all are but how sincerely most of us want to do better. I’m so happy to know you too, sweet friend.


  3. Karen I love this. Your down to earth tone will resonate with many, I’m sure. You definitely have me evaluating my own definition of the word compassion and how I truly incorporate it in to my own life. I’ll be paying more attention now. 😉 Great post…will be sharing. Hope you and yours are well.


  4. You made so many great points in this post! I love them all. I think the one that hit home most for me was being willing to risk offering compassion imperfectly. I don’t know why that is such a sticking point for me sometimes but it is.Thank you for helping me see that….it gives me incentive to change it and to grow.
    A beautiful post. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh – I loved the Anne Lamott “I’m a recovering higher power” quote – I was having a laugh about that very sentiment last night with another blogger – I’ll have to see if she knows the quote.

    And agree – so many of us do nothing instead of something because the overall issue seems so huge. But all actions, no matter how small, count.

    This is a wonderful post!


  6. I got goosebumps reading this. You may as well have been describing me…describing so many of us. But this…this I will remember and take with me: “If each of us risks offering compassion imperfectly, we can change the world.”

    Thank you for these words.


  7. Love this Karen.
    It’s so true, it doesn’t have to be hard….we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we all can DO something.
    I remember only one thing really clearly from the day my husband died…with all the people and the crazy and the food coming in. One friend brought a package of toilet paper. She knew there would be a lot of people and she didn’t know the state of my TP on that day…I remember looking at her and just collapsing because it felt like the most thoughtful thing that was ever done. And it was so simple.

    If we look a our lives we begin to see the ways that we are uniquely qualified to help others, to show our compassion in meaningful ways. Yes, just a smile can do it, a touch of the hand. A bunch of TP.
    And we can go deeper…as a widow I now lead grief support groups because I understand that, I help other alcoholics because I understand that….each of our understanding can go such a long way towards helping others if we are able and willing to do all that we can.

    I wish I had known about this before, but am so glad to be able to read all these wonderful posts today. I am heartened by the messages and reminded of all that I can do in small and bigger ways.
    Thank you!


    1. Your comment is worthy of a blog post! It’s not too late if you want to join in.

      That gesture with the toilet paper is touching. It’s those simple, thoughtful things that people do that always bring me to my knees in gratitude. I’ve read so many of these #1000Speak posts today and the vast majority are focusing on the little things that we all can do and it makes me think that the world is a better place than the news/media shows us. Yes, horrible things happen but I think we’re better off than we think. I’m very hopeful today. 🙂


  8. Karen, this is such a lovely post. Thank you for making it part of 1000Speak. I’m blown away by the amazing things everyone’s writing about compassion.

    I DO TRY – does that count? I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable around that quote, because although I see the point, I always feel slightly as though all I can offer is my best shot, and that like as not, it might fail. My compassion is being okay with a try and a fail. Ish. I think.

    Will have to think further on this 🙂


    1. I think what Yoda is saying is that trying doesn’t exist. Just the act of trying is doing. At least, that’s how I interpret it. It’s funny because I think of Yoda as a real person instead of just a character in a movie! As far as I’m concerned, it’s never failing if you do something, anything. Thank you for spearheading this awesome movement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never thought of it that way before. Clearly I am not zen enough to understand his way of thinking (Not down with the Star Wars am I!) because I always understood it to be an inherent criticism, like, if you’re not going to succeed, don’t even bother trying, because trying and failing is worthless.

        Interesting the slant your internal perspective automatically projects onto things. I’m really grateful to you for making me see this quote a different way 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, you brought tears to my eyes, Karen! This is an amazing post, breaking down the meaning of compassion (not just feeling, but doing), and the various ways in which we can take the action. I am taking this with me today, and I will do what I can today to put your beautiful words into action.

    Thanks for starting my day off right 🙂


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