‘There but for the Grace of God go I’ | As It Turns Out | December


Does anyone know why the word “compassion” is such an ignored word these days? Why are those who show compassion called bleeding hearts instead of simply someone with a good heart?

What exactly is compassion?

Compassion is something akin to being a Secret Santa, one person helping another.

It’s an attempt to reduce the suffering of another, to offer a helping hand.

It’s empathy, emotional maturity, kindness, responsibility, integrity and common humanity.

Here are a few uninspiring American statistics about those most in need of compassion.

According to the Census Bureau, more than one in seven Americans live in poverty, although controversy exists over the way poverty is still measured by 1965 guidelines. Much has changed in 45 years, so many believe that the poverty number is probably much higher than is reported.

The Census Bureau also reports 15 million are now unemployed, 50 percent of whom have been out of work for six months or more.

In addition, the Bureau says that more than 50 million are now without health insurance.

A November Associated Press article reported that 49 million have difficulty getting enough food.

That’s a lot of people that need help.

Part of what the liberal side of the government is attempting to do is set policies in place that help those Americans who are most in need.

These days, it seems the poor should not be seen or heard – or even talked about, for that matter. Do you wonder about the poor when our leaders can only talk about how to help the plight of the middle class?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that politics today on both sides of the aisle have been dishonored with greed. “Compassionate politics” has become an inhumane joke at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.

Federal, state and local governments have been stripped to the bones over the past dozen years and few resources are left to come to the aid of the poor. That leaves it up to anyone of us who care to relate compassionately to those at risk – to do what we can as far as giving money, giving time, and helping to supply food, clothing, shelter — and hope.

“There for the grace of God go I.”

I recently discovered that this old phrase is also used as the title of a song written by Paul Overstreet. The song actually addresses the point. Here’s a bit of it:

There’s a man on a corner with a cardboard sign that reads

“I will work for food.”

A woman stands beside him with hungry eyes that plead

Our children are hungry too.

Some may say I’m foolish for giving to their cause.

Oh there but for the grace of God go I.

How without compassion can we pass them by?

Oh, it could be you, it could be me the world has cast aside.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Some of us might have a lack of identity with those in need. The statistics alone might not be enough to encourage some of the people who have the means to help.

They may not yet see their comfortable jobs could be lost next week. They may not see what a terrifying experience the unemployment circuit is. They may not experience emptying their nest eggs to cover their living expenses until there is no more there to empty. They may not experience losing their home because they just can’t quite scrape together the mortgage payments or the rent.

If they did, those who just don’t get it might learn the golden rule — treating others as you would have them treat you. And perhaps then they can forget about hatred and fear along the way. We are all human, no matter the color of our skin, no matter whom we love and want to be with, no matter the number of zeros in our bank account.

As Plato once said, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

Reach columnist Marylin Olds at marylin.olds@gmail.com.