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It IS Personal : Why My Compassion for Paris Does Not Diminish Those Suffering Elsewhere

trocadero paris

I may not be a French national but I very much consider France my second home. I have many friends who live there, and of all the other countries I’ve been to, France is first on my list of most visited. I lived in Paris for a semester studying, encountering the people, steeping myself in the language and culture, becoming inspired to love good, fresh foods, learning the intricacies of all those winding streets that still exist despite Haussmann’s best efforts to eradicate them. It is a place that lives in my heart even when I’m not present.

To hear of the attacks there last Friday, cut me to my core. I feared for friends. I felt deeply the violation of a country. I considered how easily I could have been in similar circumstances had the events happened 7 years earlier. I’ve visited those streets, I’ve attended a soccer match in that very stadium, where the explosions occurred.

On this same day, there was a bombing in Beirut that killed and injured dozens. This, too, saddens me greatly that there are people anywhere in this world that consider suicidal attacks on innocent civilians an acceptable means of warfare {or whatever it is they consider what they are doing}.

I’ll admit, my thoughts and heart went mostly to France that day. There is a strong current of shaming that occurred on social media, though, for those of us who weren’t equally posting about both events. I do care about what is happening to those in the Middle East and I frequently remember them in my prayers, but the attacks on Paris were close.

I should not feel ashamed to place an emphasis on something I love. As Madeleine L’Engle put it, “Compassion is particular; it is never general.” Sympathy for a general idea of those suffering does not easily produce action to help actually relieve those in distress. A personal connection is more likely to inspire action. It is not to say we shouldn’t do things for those who are further removed from us, but when we turn towards those first who are closer to us, it is an appropriate response. If loved ones were in distress along with a crowd of others would you indiscriminately help anyone or would you search out and protect your loved ones first? 

Sympathy for those suffering in France does not diminish the suffering of those elsewhere. In fact, it may strengthen one’s concern for others in a similar situation. We should not be condemning others who vocalize concern about one person or one group before another. One should emulate their compassion and throw our love, prayers and thoughts towards those God has placed on one’s own heart. 

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2 Thoughts on “It IS Personal : Why My Compassion for Paris Does Not Diminish Those Suffering Elsewhere

  1. I agree – we write about what’s closest to our hearts, and we’re not obligated to write equally about everything. We’d never leave our keyboards!

  2. I also agree. I think you can be specifically compassionate and upset without it taking away from other terrible things happening around the world. I do find it a little weird with people getting upset at how upset people are about Paris. Yes, other atrocities should get air time too…but they don’t have to trivialize the deaths in Paris to do so.

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