Compassion vs Personal Safety?


child sufferingI recently read an article and viewed the accompanying picture which will haunt me for some time. It was about one of the Ebola victims and how, after she had died, her young daughter was left crying, alone, in their yard and the neighbors did not want to approach for fear of contracting the deadly illness.  I do not know all the details, but I can easily imagine the scene and I suspect that this is not an isolated scenario.

I have been in situations where I was caught off guard and personal safety was thrown into question and sticking my neck out to help another person seemed like a dangerous idea.  I remember that I was never proud of my fear. Yet I cannot fault people for not wanting to take the risk of spreading a deadly and contagious disease.

What I do think is important when discussing these matters with my children, one of whom is presently in a nursing class, is that we never family and worldforget our calling to be more than prudent, but to be compassionate – even in our prudence.  Sometimes I have a tendency to see things in black and white – as if there are really only two clearly defined choices when, in fact, if I stopped to think a moment, there might be many creative ways of addressing a serious problem without sacrificing decency and compassion. Fear tends to shut off our brains and we react without proper thought.

In the situation with the thirteen year old girl crying at the loss of her mother, I can see where the neighbors were fearful of approaching, but I dearly hope that some actions were taken to provide care and love to that child, as well as her brothers and sisters, who are undoubtedly facing a very distressing future. I fear that in facing terrible news I sometimes let the weakest of me rule, and I just want to get away from the situation. But that is not what I am called to do by the God who endowed me with the capacity for courage and love.

The next time I am faced with terrible news in the suffering of another person and the choice to back away or to approach, I hope I will, no matter the cost, remember that to live fully is to risk everything on our highest honor. I do not need to play a fool to act heroically.  True heroes can be both wise as well as wonderful.

Copyright 2014 Ann Frailey


About Author

As an author and teacher with a degree in Elementary Education, Ann Frailey has written and published nine books, and several of her articles have been published in national magazines. In 2016, she earned a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University and won two course director’s awards. Ann belongs to the Catholic Writer’s Guild, home schools, and maintains a mini-farm with her children and their numerous critters.


  1. Very thought provoking. There were quite a few saints who died because they chose compassion over prudence.

  2. I really like how you mentioned the tendency to see things in black and white (which most of us have a tendency toward at times), and that if we don’t let fear rule, we can often find creative answers.

  3. Thank you for writing this; I was thinking at mass last Sunday that we need to talk about this. This Ebola thing is tricky – practicing compassion could spread the disease to others. Then I think of Jesus stretching his hand and touching the leper, making him clean. Just what is the right thing to do? Something to think and pray on in the weeks ahead. In the meantime we can lift all the Ebola victims and the health care workers in our prayers.

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