Practicing radical compassion in the time of social distancing

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  •  3 min

St. Jude patient Nick London, who started rapping during his treatment for cancer, performs on stage.

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The most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history, triggering a tsunami that sent waves up to six miles inland.

A hurricane called Katrina, leaving New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast awash in misery.

Some 50 million acres of Australia aflame in wildfires that could profoundly change the very character of the country.

Think of any of the devastating global tragedies of our generation. Think of how we hurt. Then think of how we heal.

At our best as humans, we look out for each other, especially the most vulnerable among us. We do a stranger a kind turn. We lead with our hearts.

It’s how we’ll get through this coronavirus crisis— not just with heavy lift of government action and medical advances, but with the uplift of untold acts of human generosity, large and small.

We’re seeing it around the world, these signs of kindness in the time of COVID-19:

The Italian neighbors who took to their balconies and broke into song, filling the air with hope and harmony during a country-wide lockdown.

The 200,000 people in the United Kingdom who have joined more than 300 local support groups formed on Facebook in the wake of the virus.

And closer to home — and close to our hearts at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — the Minnesota bar and grill helping provide free lunches to children who otherwise might go hungry because of school closings.

Riversbend Bar & Grill is owned by Debbie and Ed Witschen, whose son Dylan was a St. Jude patient. He passed away in 2010 at age 16 from a brain tumor, but Dylan’s generous soul is alive in them now during this new, global challenge of the coronavirus. That’s the same spirit with which entertainer Danny Thomas founded St. Jude, inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan, to love and care for our neighbors.

In the time of COVID-19, we’re all neighbors. There’s a growing sense of it around the world, that we’re in this together, that unity is the only way through.

In Ireland, when an 88-year-old man died after testing positive for the virus, his family sent a message on social media — hold the cards and flowers; perform acts of kindness instead.

From Canada to Australia to the U.S., stores are setting aside special shopping times for the elderly and medically fragile.

And the pro athletes around the world are putting the games they play into perspective — following the lead of Cleveland Cavaliers star and St. Jude supporter Kevin Love, who pledged $100,000 to help hourly arena workers amid the NBA’s suspended season.

You don’t have to be rich to help. You only need a good heart, and a giving soul.

So, call and check on an elderly neighbor. Make a quarantined friend a meal — in these days of social distancing, you can leave it on the porch and ring the bell. Donate to a food bank. Dream up some new way to make a difference. And, continue supporting St. Jude and enabling us to care for the children who need us.

No benevolent action is ever too small. And compounded around the world, such goodness can have a transformative effect. Let’s practice radical compassion.

That’s how we get through this. It’s how we always have. With our good hearts. Our giving natures. And our indomitable human spirit, not just to carry on, but to lift up the least of us for the long journey forward. Together, nothing is impossible.


Richard C. Shadyac Jr. is President and CEO of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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