Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Compassion In Action

Unlike most Korean dramatic portrayals of Alzheimer victims, which emphasize erratic and often bizarre behavior, a recently concluded soap opera did the opposite. The woman with the condition, played by a well-known actress and acting teacher, was portrayed sympathetically, more like a child needing love and support than as an aging and bothersome adult. When she died at the end of the drama, there was an unexpected outpouring of sadness from many viewers. It's not surprising that the actress selected to play the lead role had a doctorate in the psychology of acting.

After returning from the U.S. with her degree, she began to teach, emphasizing the importance of knowing the lives of the persons actors would have to portray. For her, just as important was to get to know and to help many who were in need of help: those with mental difficulties, unmarried mothers, poor children needing scholarships to continue their education, and in recent years becoming the spokesperson for keeping homeless children from being sent overseas for adoption, encouraging their adoption here in Korea. She was written up recently in the Catholic Peace Weekly as one with great compassion. Difficulties such as these are such that if resisted, persist; if befriended, end--words that well sum up a life dedicated to helping those in need.

In our Catholic tradition, there is a phrase often used to express compassion in action: "Contemplata aliis Tradere." (To hand over to others what we have contemplated.) When we live deeply with awareness, there is much that we can hand over to others as she has done, and continues to do. Passing along what we've learned is certainly important, but she reminds us of what is more important: better than sharing is doing it jointly with those you try to help.