Compassion is having the ability to understand someone else’s suffering, and having the desire to take action to alleviate that pain. It is the quality that allows you to step outside of yourself and see the true needs of others, including complete strangers on the other side of the planet. Compassion plays a vital role in the effort to make the world a better place because it offers hope to those who are ravaged by circumstances beyond their control. Unfortunately, there is no greater need for compassion than when it comes to the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. Each year more people die from poverty than from cancer, and it annually claims more victims than war. It destroys families, creating orphans at a horrific rate. It allows disease to run rampant and it spreads hunger and illness. There is no reason for life threatening poverty to exist in this day and age because we not only have the tools to stop it but to also prevent it from occurring in the future. The only reason it continues to thrive is because of a lack of human compassion.  

For those trapped in extreme poverty, compassion is a beautiful gift that can save their lives and those of their children. It is the willingness of people to help individuals they will never meet. It is the willingness to make sacrifices on the behalf of others. It is the willingness to face challenges with courage and conviction in order to improve the quality of life for a billion human beings. If you are filled with compassion for those who are struggling to survive on a dollar a day you cannot be cynical or selfish. Compassion replaces feelings of intolerance and hate with love and understanding. However, being compassionate is more than just being sympathetic. It also supplies the drive and will power to remove the suffering. Compassion demands immediate and effective effort to improve the lives of those who are the victims of injustice.  

There are many deplorable aspects to extreme poverty, but one of the worst is the heartbreaking lack of compassion that is demonstrated by citizens of the West for the innocent children in poverty who die at the heartbreaking rate of 25,000 a day. It is inexcusable that we turn away and go about our comfortable lives without a care in the world while more than 9 million children needlessly die each year. What causes this type of behavior on our part? Is it the fact that we are so preoccupied with our own lives and problems that we lose our perspective on the world at large or do we simply choose to ignore our responsibilities to make this a life filled with love and peace for everyone? Is it that we have difficulty caring about those who are out of sight and that we don’t actually interact with? Is it that we don’t feel compassion for those who seem different from us because of their ethnicity or their beliefs? Whatever the excuse, our lack of compassion has severe repercussions on the lives of the millions of human beings who are desperate for our concern and our commitment. They need us to care so they can survive.  

Compassion not only recognizes the need for aid and comfort when something is wrong, it compels us to get involved. We can’t help but reach out to those who are facing life and death situations when we are filled with compassion. It makes us sensitive to what other people are going through. It makes us care at such a profound level that we are filled with the overwhelming desire to save the lives of the innocent. Compassion makes us accept responsibility that we never thought we could handle. It makes us better people than we ever dreamed we could be – and it is a fact that we cannot eliminate extreme poverty without it. We can throw money and programs at the problem but that will not solve it. We can enlist the aid of governments and organizations worldwide but that will not solve it. We can write about it and raise awareness about it and have celebrities put their weight behind the cause but that will not solve it. The only permanent solution is compassion. If we love one another, if we are filled with concern for those who are bravely fighting to stay alive against incredible odds, then the money, support and programs will fall into place.  

Unfortunately, our lack of compassion for those who are dying demonstrates a mob mentality of indifference and self-centeredness. It shows our preoccupation with trivial, insignificant issues that eat up the limited number of days in our lives. In later years you do not want to look back and see that you wasted precious time on meaningless pursuits that now have no value. You do not want to realize that you abused your time and accomplished nothing of importance in your life. Please do not let that happen. Do not spend your time searching for happiness by engaging in activities that, in the end, are not fulfilling. You can enjoy a life filled with compassion that will lead you in a totally different direction. You can experience a deep sense of joy in your efforts to help save lives. You can begin to understand how rewarding life can be when you sincerely make the effort to bring hope to those who are struggling in desperation.  

It is not too late to change your priorities so that you can begin to affect the world in a positive way. You only need to embrace the challenge of living a compassionate life. Practice thinking of others first. Put their needs ahead of your own. Try to realize that your problems are insignificant compared to the death and suffering faced by those in extreme poverty. Feel good about yourself for attempting to be part of the solution. Get lost in a cause that is bigger than your own personal interests. Start right now to live your life to the fullest with an increasing awareness of the courageous struggle waged each day by a billion fellow human beings.  

The entire planet is not made up of shopping malls and golf courses. Too much of the real world is filled with unnecessary hunger, treatable illnesses and preventable disease. If you will open your eyes and see the reality of life you will be filled with compassion as you begin to understand the suffering experienced by hundreds of millions of people through no fault of their own. As you learn the heart wrenching facts about extreme poverty you will be moved to take action. You will begin to actively try to save lives as you give your own life new meaning…And in the future when you reflect back on the decisions you’ve made you will not see a life burdened with regret. You will be able to say that you cared and that you made the courageous attempt to live a life filled with compassion.  


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