In and amongst the busyness of last month, and the news coming through about the reality of the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan caused in the Philippines, someone de-friended me on Facebook.
Definitely in the category of a #firstworldproblem and not at all a new phenomenon – people friend and unfriend people as they see fit on a daily basis. But this particular one got me thinking.
In fairness to this person, they did send me a note to let me know about my ‘unfriending’. It wasn’t because she is no longer my friend, nor because she no longer wishes to have a relationship with me. But she felt my posts about the situation of asylum seekers and the Philippines were causing her to suffer what she identified as ‘compassion fatigue’.
As someone who worked overseas in the Philippines for several years, I guess I am instantly attracted to any news that comes out of the country, especially when things like the typhoons or other natural disasters hit.
I think it would be the same for anyone who has spent time living or travelling in another country and community which has been significant to them.
Throughout the last decade or so our world has become very inter-connected and, in reality, very small.
There was a time when we in Australia might never have known of natural disasters, pain or distress in another part of the world. Now we read almost instant updates and subsequently make a decision about what we will do – if anything – as a result of this knowledge.
I feel very privileged to work in the UCA, which has a partnership with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
We have shared the news coming out of the Philippines, especially from those involved on the ground. We have found tangible ways for people in the UCA to respond as they feel led, which ultimately supports those who have been directly affected.
Some conversations go around and around in your brain. The one I had with my friend has done this. I suspect ‘compassion fatigue’ is probably because we think of ourselves highly as benefactors, with so many causes and situations around the world needing our thoughts, prayers and financial assistance.
Perhaps the spirit should be more of ‘solidarity’.
We are sisters and brothers in a common bond of faith or humanity, compassion with each other in dire situations is an expression of sincere solidarity. In that sense, I don’t know if fatigue has a place.
By Jill Ruzbacky