“I’ve been hearing the word ‘compassion’ a lot lately,” writes Patty Crain. Photo: Khadeeja Yasser/Unsplash

“I’ve been hearing the word ‘compassion’ a lot lately,” writes Patty Crain. Photo: Khadeeja Yasser/Unsplash

Letter: Thinking about how different people interpret the word ‘compassion’

Letter to the Editor from Patty Crain of Trail

Recently in a weekly Nanaimo newspaper, there was an article titled “People Living on the Streets are Struggling. Their neighbours are too.”

The author, Julie Chadwick, spoke about the effects the homeless population is having on Nanaimo’s citizens and business people.

A very interesting piece that described how it happened, who it’s happening to, citizen’s responses, and a variety of interviews describing various personal consequences to the situation. One of the interviews was with Nanaimo’s Mayor, Leonard Krog.

What caught my attention was that he called the long term effect of the homeless crisis on the townspeople a “compassion fatigue.”

I’ve been hearing the word “compassion” a lot lately.

Not just being said to me, but to others as well.

Mostly to the citizens and business people of Trail that express an opinion about the folks that have taken over the alley behind the homeless shelter and the streets nearby.

There’s usually a “should” in the compassion sentence.

Like, “You should have more compassion for these vulnerable people.”

Well I could say, like an old co-worker used to say, “Please don’t should on me.”

I also could respond by asking why I should be compassionate to people who are so disrespectful towards me and the other citizens and business people of Trail. Or who are so disrespectful of the city itself.

But I won’t.

Instead I’ll think about the word “compassion” and how different people interpret it.

I see the various levels of government being compassionate to this sector of our society. Their form of compassion is no strings attached money.

The government keeps pouring money into the chaotic hole these folks have dug.

The money goes to many places: disability checks; free injection sites; homeless shelters; low cost no barrier housing; food banks; or even hosing down alleyways.

Because there are no expectations attached to this compassion, it almost looks to me like the government is taking the barriers away from stopping the continued addiction.

All of this benevolence and compassion is a sort of a permission slip to continue the lifestyle.

Or I think about my and other similar thinking individual’s compassion.

It’s based on premises such as, “Nothing’s for free,” or “You have to work for what you want.”

We, instead of pouring money into the chaotic addiction hole, believe in providing a ladder and teaching these folks how to climb it in order to get out.

Yes, give them the money, the injection sites, the low cost housing and food.

But give it with the expectation that they use it as a stepping stone towards achieving recovery, not longer standing addiction.

And certainly, low cost housing should have a strict abstinence code and have 24/7 support staff to help the residents succeed at recovery and life.

So, in my opinion, if you’re telling me I should be more compassionate, be more specific about what you mean by it.

I’d like to know whether I’m being reprimanded or praised for voicing my opinion.

As well, take into consideration that many of us are suffering from compassion fatigue and are just verbally expressing it.

Patty Crain,


Letter to the Editor