Being present to the suffering of others and responding from the heart, is my life's work. I believe that understanding compassion means that we are prepared to understand what suffering means.
I remember having a coffee with a work colleague some years ago, who asked for a little of my time and to have a chat. He began to tell me that he was very happy with his job and that he was also very proud of his new flat he had saved up for and bought, and how he had tastefully decorated it and furnished it. He wanted me to know that he felt very comfortable with what he'd achieved in life - and his eyes began to water. I assumed they were tears of joy and I felt momentarily very happy for him. But then, he slowly began to tell me that despite his obvious success he felt profoundly alone. His family had moved away. He wasn't a natural socialite, so had no meaningful friendships for all sorts of reasons. It became an incredibly moving encounter.
We chatted for several hours over many cups of coffee, but it was his concluding words before we parted ways that hit me: "Thank you for being in the pain with me," he said. This is what I mean about being prepared to understand what suffering means.
The world is in greater need of compassion than ever before. Of course, we are not responsible for the lives of others, but I do believe we have a social responsibility. We appear to be rapidly losing sight of this as a society. Acts of kindness, caring and support cost only a little time and effort and they will only ever increase the possibility of living peaceful lives.
With the kind permission of my work colleague.