The Impact of Compassion (by Veronica Fetzer)

Throughout my community service during this writing class at PCC, as well as even beforehand, I have noticed again and again how compassion is such a critical component of helping those who are experiencing marginalization in society. Indeed, I do not know whether it is possible to really make a difference in someone’s life without it, as its absence means that people are trying to help out of other motives, such as self-advancement or pity, or else they do not care to try to help at all and instead further people’s marginalization in society. I have been observing this over time in my interactions and conversations with people, and yet I wanted to dig deeper and do some more in-depth research into how compassion really impacts people who are marginalized, and whether or not my hunches are backed up by research and organizational approaches. This is what leads me to my research question below.

Research Question
What is the connection (if any) between experiencing empathy/compassion and someone’s self-worth/esteem, specifically among marginalized populations?

Public Writing
Besides researching this question through already existing academic articles and organizational findings, I wanted to add a more personal element to this topic. This is why I decided to interview a resident at Park Tower, a Section 8 apartment complex where I have been involved in community service. Section 8 means that the housing is subsidized for people who either have a physical or mental disability of some kind, or who are over the age of 65. I am part of a student-led club called En Christo where a group of about 10-20 students (depending on the week) pack around 160 lunches to take to this apartment complex and go door-to-door to pass them out and build relationships with the residents. We also serve soup and lunches on the top floor lounge, where people can sit and chat while they eat food in community, instead of alone in their rooms.

To read about my interview with a resident who has lived in Park Tower for about a year and a half and has been involved in En Christo for the majority of his time living there, check out my blog post.

The Research

Academic Articles:
1. Crowder, Rachael. “Join & Share Your Research with the World.” Healing the Self: The Role of Self-compassion and Empathy in a Mindfulness Modality with Women Survivors of Interpersonal Violence., 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

This article is about research done on self-compassion and how it is healing for the self, and more specifically in this case, women who have suffered from interpersonal violence. This is an authoritative source because it is a research article that is objective and used various scales, such as The Compassion Scale and the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale, to measure empathy and compassion and their relationship regarding healing effects.

This is related to my research question, although it approaches it from a different perspective than what I was originally thinking of- that of compassion towards yourself, versus experiencing compassion from another person. I think that this is an important topic to cover, however, as sometimes other people do not show people compassion when they should, which is why people need to learn to also show it to themselves. I think that this is and can be very empowering to people who have been marginalized to learn how to practice this towards themselves, and thereby experience healing on their own time instead of waiting for others to act in order for the process to begin.

2. Chaplin, Kevin. “The Ubuntu Spirit in African Communities.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.

This article is all about how to challenge the degenerating moral values in society and the social challenges that come along with that, which is recommended to be done by incorporating the value of Ubuntu into society. Ubuntu is defined as “the potential for being human, to value the good of the community above self interest. Ubuntu is to strive to help people in the spirit of service, to show respect to others and to be honest and trustworthy.” It argues that racism is something that is socialized into people and is not a mindset that people are born with, which means that people can also be socialized out of being racist and treating others as if they are inferior. The South African Ubuntu Foundation is an example of people trying to promote this value and overcome the degenerating moral values in society by tearing down the various barriers between people and to promote harmony. This is an authoritative source because it is written by Kevin Chaplin, who has researched these topics and is now Managing Director of this Foundation.

This relates to my research questions because this organization puts Ubuntu into practice in order to help those who are marginalized in society, striving to impact their lives in tangible ways for the better. They measure success by “children staying away from drugs, not engaging in sex and getting HIV Aids or pregnant, completing their schooling, doing better at school, becoming employable, going on to become role models, leaders and study further.” Children abstaining from these things that so frequently alienate them from society because they have experienced the healing that comes from an outward expression of empathy and compassion (as shown through the African value of Ubuntu) is proof that their lives are being positively changed.

3. “Interview: Still Point Theatre Collective Founder Lisa Wagner-Carollo.” CulturalOrganizingorg. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.

This article is about Still Point, a theatre company that works in institutions with incarcerated women, helping them to create and perform their own plays and “celebrate our common spirituality, and raise consciousness on issues of peace and justice.” This is an authoritative piece of writing as this is an interview with the founder of this organization which strives to build up women’s self-esteem and empower them to view themselves in positive ways, instead of how they are so commonly viewed by society.

This relates to my research question because this woman has found her program to be successful in helping women to believe in themselves and believe that they can be more than yet another criminal in a jail cell, rather than only punishing them for what they’ve done. She has also created a theatre group of women who have been released from prison called Sisters Rising. This isn’t just a program that was made to entertain people who are incarcerated; it was made to show women compassion when they often only feel judgment, and it has been shown to have a tangible impact in their lives.

4. Heslov, Lysa. “Think Empathy’s Just a Nice Idea? Think Again…” The Huffington Post., 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.

This article is about a General Electric employee who was working on making a new and improved MRI machine, only then to realize how lots of children have to be sedated in order to go into it because they are so unaesthetically pleasing. He felt empathy for the children who were so afraid to go into his machine that he put more time and research into learning how to create a more “friendly” machine that children would be comfortable and safe going into. As a result, children who are often terminally ill or very physically unhealthy now enjoy being tested, as they are entering into a “Pirate Ship” or “Space Adventure,” with less and less children having to be sedated to get an MRI.

Children Mending Hearts is an organization that mirrors this by “trying to connect ideas of creativity, innovation and art with concepts of global citizenry, empathy and compassion for others.” I think that these children are an example of an underserved population that is experiencing compassion through these people and organizations, which they claim leads to more positive outlooks on life and being more inclined to reach out and help others when they see a need, which is what compassion is. This is an authoritative source because there have been drastically noticeable results between before a compassionate approach to creating an MRI machine was made and after. This is an example of a real-life situation in which an act of compassion directly impacted children who needed it.



About Fetzer Sisters

We are two sisters, Ronnie and Jess, who initially decided to create this blog after hearing about Compassion International’s Blog Month 2013, where their goal is to raise awareness about their child sponsorship program and get 3,160 children around the world sponsored by the end of the month. We have since then branched off to cover other topics underneath the broad theme of active compassion. Thanks for reading, we hope you will join us on our journey!

One comment

  1. Hi Veronica! Thank you so much for sharing your story! If you have read any of my work I think you would agree that we have a lot in common. Like you said compassion is the key. Without compassion for those around us we might as well be spinning in circles alone. I think that your interview and post also touches on the importance of not judging, which is also such an important message.
    I really like how you talked about not just to help people, but to do it in a certain way. Sometimes help can feel belittling for the receiver and that defeats the purpose. Your friend was very brave to open up about his experiences. Thank you both for your wisdom!

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