Catching a Second Wind

Researchers call it compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress (STS).  It can be noticed by a lessoning of compassion, usually a result from being repeatedly exposed to trauma.  You can notice it when you read an article about Nigerian girls or people dying from Ebola, or the worsening condition in the Middle East and notice those things no longer wrench your heart. 

Compassion fatigue.

I noticed it the other day when my sister came home from an incredibly moving night at church.  She learned about human slavery in Haiti and in the midst of that knowledge, claimed responsibility and felt moved to act.  It was a proud moment, seeing her heart break again for a country and community that she feels connect to, however in the middle of her story I noticed myself diverting my attention elsewhere.  I just couldn’t hear another story about another broken community where more people are not being treated as they should.  

Not a proud moment.

So how did I get from being the girl who visited Ghana and went without food for days because she couldn’t bear to eat when the kids she held would go home hungry.  What happened to the girl who would cry out of brokenness on behalf of her neighbor in India, the one who didn’t know Jesus?  Or the girl who stayed up late thinking and brainstorming ways to lesson poverty in the Indian slum she walked to every week; the girl who dreamt of playgrounds and community gardens so that parents and kids had a place where they could feel human, and not “untouchable”.

What happened to her?  She had big dreams and big plans and believed she would be an agent of change in the world.  Somewhere in the mix of Ebola and slavery and divorces and murders and global warming and international turmoil, she got tired.  So she turned off her brain, covered her ears, and just kept her head down.

Compassion fatigue can happen to those of us with the best intentions.  It can happen while we are totally aware and in the midst of our best work, or it can happen without us knowing, stealing our motivation right out from under us.  

But once we rest, and we rid ourselves of fatigue, its time to get up and get moving again.  Its time to catch a second wind. 

Ever since graduating, I found I am in a season of continuous transition, but at the moment I am also in a season of preparation.  I am preparing to no longer live at home.  I am preparing to move to a new place.  I am preparing to be someone’s wife.  And in preparing for these things, I want to put my best foot forward and create lifestyle habits that I can be proud to share with someone.  

I want to give to others more that I give to myself.  

I want to live simply, learn to cook and find ways to openly extend hospitality and grace to others.  

I want my life and my marriage to be one I am proud of, filled with intentionality, purpose, spontaneity and joy.  

I don’t want to be just another human living just another complacent life.

I will not be a victim of compassion fatigue.

So I’m tuning my eyes and ears to how I can best represent Jesus each day in whatever circumstance I find myself.  

I’m catching a second wind.

Ashley Sider