I signed up for a webinar about compassion recently to gain continuing education credits to maintain my MI RN license.

I couldn’t connect to the webinar, but it did get me thinking about first responders, the health care community and their unadulterated, on display, inspiring compassion during this covid-19 pandemic!

How in the world can someone risk everything – physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual health and step up, face-to-face, literally, and fight this coronavirus monster?

I bet you, like I, know such heroes. I’ve met over the years many first responders and healthcare professionals and think, with few exceptions, that these are some of the most kind hearted, dedicated, people on earth! And I wonder: What makes these people tick? What are their common personal traits? When I looked into that question, I found things like: great communicators, exceptional problem solvers, flexible thinkers. But the one thing that stands out to me as a common trait is: compassion.

What is compassion? Siri (ok maybe not the best source) defines it as concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It implies a strong sense of empathy. In the healthcare profession, it means that healthcare personnel will face, when dealing with patients, not only unimaginable physical suffering, but also incomparable emotional despair. How do they shield themselves from these human conditions without letting it creep into the pores of their psyche? They have to become “bullet proof,” with strength of mind, soul, physical being and compassion the fabric of their protective “vest.”

When they are asked why they chose this profession, they will invariably say “I guess it’s a calling.” This is their vocation, a strong feeling that this is what they are meant to do.

Compassion and the desire to help others is part of their DNA, because how else do you explain people who come face to face with the very human experiences from which others run? In normal times, the job of these warriors is tough. During these unprecedented times, it is beyond courageous! They are the embodiment of nobility and strength. These workers are truly our “better angels.”

Let’s honor these heroes. Let’s lean in to our compassion more vigorously.

Like our better angels.

Polly Jantzen is a Clarkston, MI resident, has a B.S. in Nursing and Psychology, a Master’s of Public Health, and was a consultant to global organizations as they planned for enterprise-wide change.

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