I found the following in IMPRIMIS, a publication of Hillsdale College:
According to the Oxford English Dictorinary, the Latinate word "compassion" means, literally, "suffering together with another--it's the feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another and by the desire to relieve it."
The author, William Voegeli, goes on to differentiate between having intentions to be compassionate and actually being compassionate. As I read and then re-read his essay, I was struck by this distinction. How many times have you heard "If you need anything, just call?" Perhaps you have even said those words. I know I have. Later, I cringe, because if I were truly compassionate, I would have made a specific offer.
I believe the difference between having good intentions to be compassionate and being compassionate is action. When my sister died, many friends showed compassion for our family. In Carla's ward, friends showed up with meals, with offers to drive her (Carla's) granddaughter to daycare, with unexpected hugs. I received cards (all of which I kept, needing to read and read again the loving words). One dear sister offered to come every day to take care of our cat while Larry and I were away from home. (As it was, we had already made other arrangements, but I will never forget her generous offer.) Prayers were said and heard.
My point? These dear friends acted. They are exemplars of compassion, of love, of the Savior.
Joy for today: understanding what compassion is .. and what it isn't.