I like to think I’m a compassionate person. If I see a bad situation on the TV, I feel sorry for those people. I even give to charity – some charities, sometimes. But is that what compassion looks like?

On Wednesday I took part in the SRE seminar at Penshurst Girls’. We heard that the word compassion comes from the words for ‘suffering together’. Elissa, who’s a 20-year-old Presbyterian social justice advocate, told the girls about her experience of caring for (and resenting) her disabled friend – and the humbling experience of depression and ADHD which made her, instead of the helper, the one needing help. Is it compassion if it costs us nothing? Is it compassion if we refuse to bear another’s burden?

Sometimes my heart goes out to people but I do and say nothing for them. What could stir us to take on someone else’s suffering, to bear someone else’s struggle with them, when we don’t have to? What could change our hearts to make us compassionate? Who can give us the strength and the grace to keep on laughing with those who laugh, and weeping with those who weep?

Liz, our SRE teacher at Penshurst Girls’, told the story of the widow of Nain. The widow experienced an act of Jesus’ compassion. Jesus in his death and resurrection has compassion for all of us. What effect does Jesus’ compassion have on you?

Do I see myself as someone who depends on God’s compassion, or am I an independent Australian who doesn’t need anyone else?

Alan Wood