A colleague brought my attention to a recent Dear Abby post from September 22, 2019, titled “Veteran Appreciates Action More than Words.”
This veteran had a negative reaction when someone says, “Thank you for your service.” His struggle was that given all he had experienced and suffered, that phrase rang hollow.
He explained, “If a person truly wants to thank a vet, DO something for him or her instead of just offering lip service. Cut their grass, offer to help carry in their groceries, etc. While words are appreciated at times, hearing them too often becomes hollow. Showing appreciation is always welcome.”
Abby encouraged this Veteran to accept words of thanks, as well as acts of appreciation and support when needed.
This answer didn’t cut it for me. We need more. We need real compassion to relate to this Veteran, and anyone who has struggled or is struggling.
Compassion is about struggling with people, in a spirit of dignity, while sharing 100% responsibility for our feelings, thoughts, and actions. What might compassion look like for this Veteran?
Start with Openness
- Listen to his experiences without judging.
- Accept his feelings as valid, even if you can’t relate.
- Express appreciation if you genuinely feel it.
Move to Resourcefulness
- Ask curious questions to understand his world better.
- Ask first if you can help and what would be most helpful. Unsolicited help can easily be misinterpreted.
- Offer whatever resources you have that could be most helpful.
- Whether you agree or disagree with his values, respect him and respect your own values as well.
- Make commitments you can keep.
- Maintain healthy boundaries.
Compassion is an action word that exercises openness, resourcefulness, and persistence to struggle with others to create a better tomorrow. Who will you struggle with today?