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A Personal Report on a Service Learning Project on Compassion at a Nursing Home

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“Compassion in its fullest sense is not a standing apart from the one in need; it is a sharing in the pain and suffering of a need unfulfilled, an injury not healed, an injustice not rectified.” (Farley, 65) Compassion is an emotion that is felt by all humans. Humans are social creatures; we yearn for affection and love from others. The ability to share experiences and feelings, and being able to empathize with others is an ability that could be considered uniquely human. From young children to the elderly, we all want to share our life stories to others and hear a response in return. Receiving attention and knowing that someone is listening is a heart-warming and influential response that can greatly affect a person’s well-being. Compassion, in a sense, is love, love that all humans crave and require to maintain a healthy mindset and mental being.

I have always a dislike for nursing homes or any elderly home. Since I was a little girl, I avoided any interaction ill elderly at all costs. They scared me and made me feel uncomfortable. I never had a particular reason to avoid nursing homes other than the uncomfortable feeling that they made me feel. However, after interning at a nursing home, I was able to pinpoint the reason why I disliked nursing homes: I was uncomfortable with empathizing with the residents. The process of the residents making me feel the way they felt when they experienced certain emotions, especially sorrow or heartbreak scared me. Because the Academic Service Learning was for assisting the elderly and less fortunate, I dreaded the moment I would step foot into a nursing home again. However, my experience at International Missions Association is helping me change my perspective on compassion.

At International Mission Association, I was assigned to help an elderly man living at a nearby elderly home. I was to help him with his daily activities and spend time with him, offering companionship. The elderly man was a quiet, but pleasant person. Something that really stood out to me was his room. His room was quite plain; the walls were empty, the bedside table only had an empty cup and several napkins, and the room was left dark. I knew from the start that this man did not or could not contact his family. As I spent time with him and helped him with his activities, he began to open up about his family situation. His wife had died several years before, and his sons left him in the nursing home, not keeping in contact from the time they dropped him off. My heart hurt after hearing the story and I so badly wanted to run away. But the sorrowful expression on his face made me stay. I held his hand and we walked together in silence. After leaving, I felt a heavy burden was lifted from my shoulders. Although I knew I couldn’t fully provide an emotional support that the man needed, I hoped that I could have taken some of his pain.

Compassion, I learned, is not always about saying the right words. I have always believed that, to empathize with another person, I had to say the perfect words to someone who is suffering or struggling with something difficult in their lives. Now I realize that words are not the most important part of compassion. The most important part of compassion is love and expressing this love. If humans love another, whether it’s brotherly or romantic love, compassion would be automatic because we would desire to suffer with them and encourage them through their struggles. “Just as God clothes the naked, attends, the sick, comforts the mourners, and buries the dead, [we must do likewise].” (Farley, 49) “God enters into a covenant with God’s people, and within this covenant offers a model of mutually obligating love. Human persons are to imitate the ways of God…” (Farley, 49) God calls those he has given much to serve those who are less fortunate. How would someone serve those in need without loving them like God loves them? Although it is impossible for humans to unconditionally love each other as God does, we need to put in the effort to love others, even those we don’t know.

Compassionate respect has become a more clear term to me now. Instead of being scared of taking on another’s pain and suffering, I learned that I need to have courage to love other people. I want to actively learn to love everybody and show love to them. God’s love is shown through people, and I want the people I serve to experience God’s love through me. Although I am lacking in many areas, I want to give my best efforts to show compassionate respect to not only my friends and family , but also to all people I will encounter in my life.

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