Showing compassion

Today I was involved in a moment that left me wondering, “Is compassion innate and built into our being or learnt?” It’s a standard nature versus nurture question. I hear you all thinking, “Oooh, what could have made Nicola go all philosopher on us?” Well let me tell you.

On the ward where I work with the children (in the orphanage which is home for the children I work with) many of the 50+ have not learned to speak, but one in the group has, over the years, improved in his speech and definite sentences can be understood. The traditional ‘Mai Ouw’ (I don’t want) and his favourite one… ‘Who’s pooed?’ (Sorry for the toilet talk; it’s just that he is a young teenage boy and so it is a common topic). That conversation normally goes… ‘Who pooed… Ni..ii…LAAA’. Just in case you could not get that last word, it’s my name the way he says it. We have this banter most days, so when I heard him call my name, I expected that, but today it was something different.

This young man today called my name and pointed out that a bird was hitting its head on the window and getting more and more confused.

The bird had flown in the open sliding doors and then got trapped when the care giver closed them.


I got a towel and covered the bird and brought it down to show the young man that he had helped it. Then he eye-pointed to the door, which I understood to be him saying, ‘Let it fly free out there’, so I did as he asked and I saw it fly off with ease. When I went back and told him, he smiled the most contented smile. I told him how I thought he had a big heart with his concern for the bird and seeking assistance to help it. I also gave him some chocolate I had received in the post from a sweet friend from England as a reward for his kindness.


I was reminded of a line which I thought was either a bible passage or a song (maybe even both).

Now I wonder if you can see why I was wondering about the nature or nurture. This young man lives in a room of 50+ children, all of whom have many difficulties, where crying about problems that can’t be verbally expressed and boredom causes one to bother another for entertainment. It’s not an environment where those around him are showing empathy and concern for others. The dictionary says the meaning of compassion is….


He is, though, a very observant child with a sweet nature. One of the other things he is verbal about is the TV being turned on once it’s 4.30, because that’s what the ward staff said was permitted every day.


This leads me to think that he has a strong sense of his and others’ rights. Could this have led him to believe the bird had the right to fly free?

The children I work with and who are on the ward, and particularly this young man, often have the ability to be happy in the unpleasant circumstances of their life. Some are often able to be patient too.


As I looked for images for this blog (because in the moment I had not got my camera, as we were in the middle of a rescue) I found this fun and true one. Sometimes in my fight for rights passion, I could do with learning the part about mouths shut.

This young man’s compassion was so sweet and his compassion was so quick and focused, it was a joy to be asked to assist him in helping the bird.

I got talking with a friend this evening about being compassionate and he said…

I think it may be part of God’s image in us – which would make it innate… But, at the same time, when we become Christians, and begin to grow to be more Christ-like, we ought to see it increase.’

So I say let’s all pray for opportunities to use our innate compassion and reach out and assist those who struggle, helping to be that chain breaker to release others into freedom in whatever way it is. I ask for your prayers for the children of the 1Step2Step group that their empathy, patience and concern for others would increase too.

Nicola Anderson



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