Guest Column: Caring

Whitworth University has been a PACE partner since its inception. Every September, classes at this university are cancelled for the better part of a day in order for students to take part in service projects throughout the community. The following is my reflection on the traits of caring and compassion as they apply to my own life and my experience at a local elementary school on Community Building Day.
The study of compassion is an essential piece of the collegiate experience. Understanding compassion will help any college graduate, regardless of major, succeed in the real world or when they are trying to get a job. By showing compassion, you begin to understand the hardships of others and put yourself in their shoes. As a personal example, I want to be a chiropractor following my years at Whitworth, if I can use compassion to understand and console a patient of mine, the job becomes more personal. Instead of showing up to work and simply using the techniques I learned to help the patient physically, by using compassion I can understand a patient’s personal life and possibly truly make a difference in their life. Helping others is a trait that I would love to instill in my career, something that goes hand in hand with compassion.

Our community building task was an excellent practice in compassion as we helped out in a low income neighborhood with youth. I was in a group with my classmates Kelly, Daniel, and Jacob and we were assigned a 6th grader named Isaac. Initially, Isaac was paired with a group of all girls and just to see the joy on his face when he switched into our group and realized that he was amongst his peers was an indication that it was going to be a good day. As we walked around the neighborhood picking up trash, I began to understand one of the main points of this mission. Isaac just enjoyed being around us and being one of the guys. I began to realize that these kids really just wanted a friend. Being that friend to these kids and showing compassion in the form of listening and laughing was really the biggest take away of the day for me. Not to mention the compassion we showed towards the environment, cleaning up trash and starting the standard for cleanliness which is essential for a healthy environment.

As I began to realize the importance of being a friend to Isaac, it made me remember another experience in my life where I witnessed great amounts of compassion. My high school has a program where the psychology class meets on Friday with a class of students with special needs. Many of these students had never had friends before and were brutally picked on in middle school and elementary school. The sole purpose of this meeting between students from completely different backgrounds was to show compassion and be a friend to someone who desperately needs it. This experience changed my life dramatically and I will always remember when I was brought to tears by a girl with severe Downs Syndrome as she told me that I was her best friend. The joy of truly making a positive difference in someone’s life is a feeling that is incomparable to any other and relies solely on one thing: showing a little compassion to someone who desperately needs it.

My personal experience and the experience of community building day are essentially the same concept. Whether it be a low income little boy or a wheelchair bound girl with severe mental disabilities, the concept is the same. In either one of these situations, the kids just wanted a friend that they could talk to and they could actually call their personal friend. All it takes to make this difference is to let your guard down and show some compassion to another human being. As I mentioned before, in my career as a chiropractor I am looking forward to the opportunity to help people and the education in compassion that I am receiving from Whitworth will help in the formation of that.

Ryan Bird is a junior at Whitworth University, majoring in Health Science and is on the Whitworth Pirates baseball team.