Friday, July 27, 2018




I just got back recently from my 10th volunteer mission trip the islands. I usually come home wondering what difference I am making because the needs are endless. The longer I am down there, the more needs I become aware of! I usually come home exhausted from the poverty, heat, noise, chaos and the endless nerve wracking stress of getting there and getting back! My life-long need to “fix things and make it all better” is severely challenged. I find myself worn down sometimes by “compassion fatigue” and, when I am especially tired, I am even tempted to “quit caring.” At seventy-four, I am aware that the sand is running out of my hour glass! I wonder how much longer I will be able to do what I am doing. It is my hope to keep going as long as I am able because I find it all, in a strange way, very compelling. It makes me happy. 

Am I discouraged sometimes? Yes!  Will I give up? Hell, no! I know in my gut that the experiences I have “down there” are helping me appreciate and be thankful for what I have “up here.”  Yes, I am giving what I can, but I am learning even more. I am learning to be thankful, very thankful, always thankful.

Compassion fatigue can be a serious occupational hazard for those in any kind of helping profession, with a majority of those in the field reporting experiencing at least some degree of it in their lives. This is no surprise, as it is typically those with the most empathy who are the most at risk.

Compassion fatigue is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a profound decrease in the ability to empathize. It is a form of secondary traumatic stress as the stress occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help those who are in need. It is often referred to as “the cost of caring” for others who are in physical or emotional pain. If left untreated, compassion fatigue not only can affect mental and physical health, but it can also have serious legal and ethical implications when providing therapeutic services to people.

While it is not uncommon to hear compassion fatigue referred to as burnout, the conditions are not the same. Compassion fatigue is more treatable than burnout, but it can be less predictable and may come on suddenly or without much warning, whereas burnout usually develops over time.

 Even Mother Teresa Understood Compassion Fatigue

Mother Teresa wrote in her plan to the superiors of her convents that it was MANDATORY for her nuns to take an entire year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of their care-giving work.

One of her quotes that I have used often is this one. “To keep a lamp burning, you have to keep putting oil in it.”

On the Other Hand - Abundant Gratitude 

Sometimes, I step back with amazement at the generosity of the many good people who have come forward to help me in so many ways, both large and small, over the years. They, too, are teaching me to be thankful, very thankful, always thankful. In fact their generosity has affected me so deeply that my tombstone, which I just ordered, will have these words above my name. "Simply Amazed - Forever Grateful." 

"On the whole, resources are likely to come
to you in greater abundance when you are
generous and inclusive and engage people in 
you passion for life."


The Art of Possibility
Zander and Zander

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