Compassion in the Bowels

Recently as I tried to eloquently describe what compassion really means for a talk I was doing, I realised that compassion is a feeling and an action. Compassion doesn’t simply stop with a vibe. That would be empathy or sympathy.

No, compassion is the start of an adventure.

When people ask me why I’m not working for money, firstly they forget I became a nurse for reasons other than wealth otherwise I think I’d be doing something else… like making games such as Pokémon go. I’m not dumb. I know that nursing is not a profession where I’m likely to make my riches. I work as a nurse because I feel a deep down desperate desire to help people who are hurting. I consider it an amazing privilege to get paid to be a nurse. Its a bit crazy if you think about it.

Just like Minette broke me when I thought I was some professional robot, unaffected by the daily horrors I was faced with, there have been times when compassion overwhelms. Like the sea it can not be quenched or halted, it consumes and washes over everything in its path. Why does it happen sometimes and not others? No idea. I can just say that I believe God breaks us and our heart for certain times and certain people- why or how is none of my concern.

A while ago my friend Eunice asked  me what compassion was. She sat me down with a coffee and a notepad and she nervously scribbled away in artistic script, oozing with individuality and curiosity. She explained that she saw nurses and doctors display it and didn’t understand what it was or how she could get it. My response was a profound silence. I had no idea. I would have liked to respond with…

Compassion is the start of an adventure ….

Because that sounds cool. But I didn’t. I don’t think I said anything. Nothing of use anyway.

Then the other day my mum relayed a story to me…

Her and a friend where chatting about a Malagasy experience and how she saw that children had no toys. They chatted and drank coffee and nibbled biscuits as they casually discussed world poverty. My mums friend has a 10yr old daughter. She was playing next door and seemingly unaware of the conversation.

A few nights later the girl gave her mum 6 little fabric bags. Each one was hand sewn and hand tied with a beautiful ribbon. Inside sat perfect little figures. There were fairies and Disney princesses which were her favourite toys, not the ones that were waiting to go to the charity shops. She gave the best that she could give. She hand sewed bags and destined them to come with me where children don’t have toys. This story is compassion.

A revelation, a feeling and an action = the start of an adventure.

I was reading about compassion in the bible recently and realised that it always starts with seeing something and then doing something. The bibles word for compassion can be translated at times to mean being moved to the bowels. Back in the day the bowels, kidneys and liver were called the seat of emotion and were at one time believed to be the heart- as in love and soppy stuff.

I can understand why. Sometimes when I walk away from the greatest of adventures that’s where it hurts. Right in the gut. When I sobbed over Ebola that was where it hurt, when I held Minettes hand and watched her scream, that was where it hurt. When I watched someone pass away in the arms of their loved ones that is where is hurts. The bowel, the seat of emotions, the compassiometer.

The little girl showed such a ‘no questions asked’ act of compassion that often can’t be explained. Maybe sometimes we need to ask less questions and give or do what our bowels are saying.

Listen to your bowels. Maybe we all need a compassion adeventure ….


When Bananas lose their taste…

Travelling free, travelling light
both joy and disappointment, entangle sight
how is your heart? / It is far
both joy and disappointment, dance tonight

All is felt and all explored
both joy and disappointment before the Lord
stretching thoughts/  across the seas
both joy and disappointment, released by sword

Old tastes and smells expand within
both joy and disappointment wrestle my skin
bananas here/  their taste,     gone
both joy and disappointment fight, neither win

Oh to see and to embrace
both joy and disappointment felt in haste
gold no longer gold/  fine wines not fine
both joy and disappointment run the race

Lead. Learn. Love. Live …and there’s tea. 

  Dr Elizabeth Sercombe, an expert in leadership and human transformation came to us to teach on those very things. We had two days with our own mercyships leadership team to grow together and learn how to be good leaders and what that could mean. Then I have just had two days with our friends and colleagues at the local hospital in Tamatave who have done the same thing but in French. My French brain is switched on today and I can only really thinking about leading and coaching. Watch out Tamatave your medical leadership is stronger than ever before.