The great English writer William Hazlitt once wrote, "The smallest pain in our little finger gives us more concern than the destruction of millions of our fellow beings."
How many times have we seen news footage of a tsunami slamming into an island thousands of miles away, turned to a coworker or friend and said, "Ugh, those poor people," before going back to our Facebook feed or other distractions? We see the news footage of a plane disaster, a train disaster, a mudslide, or an explosion, and we feel helpless. It's human nature to care, of course, but not care too much. We can't do anything about it from here, save lives, or ease pain. We can only be with them in spirit, before going back to our lives.
So what can we do in those moments to really empathize with others who are suffering? What should we do to ease the suffering of the family members and friends of those mourning the loss of a loved one?
Meditate. At home, at church, at temple, at work. Everywhere. If you know you can't do it at your desk, or around other people, find a place apart. There is always a place apart, even if just the bathroom, and we need to find those places, and allow our spirit to resonate with the suffering of others.
Easier said than done, but also easier done than we realize.
We need to honor the suffering with more than just 5-10 seconds of sighing and moving on. We need to give more than just that. No, we cannot understand their pain or suffering, and we cannot physically ease their pain or suffering. We may not even want to think about their pain or suffering. But we must.
We must allow our spirit to be with them, even if there are thousands or millions of them, when disaster strikes. It's the least we can do. In those moments of incomprehensible suffering, when no amount of money or volunteer efforts can help others, we can at least send them our spirit.
So when you hear that a plane has gone down, or a train has derailed, or you learn of a mudslide that's swept others away, or a shooting or explosion has occurred, find a special place apart, and pray. Use the below if you think it works for you, or revise it as you like. And pray it more than once if you feel you need to.
"Dear God, I cannot fathom what these people just suffered, and what their loved ones are dealing with right now. I cannot hope to comprehend what their pain must be like, and I know I am unable to ease that pain right now. I pray their suffering was brief, and their bliss is now sweeter than they ever imagined. I pray their loved ones stay strong in their faith, and I pray their tears cleanse them of all pain and anguish. God, I cannot say truthfully that I feel their pain, or know what they're going through, but may my spirit honor the lives lost through these quiet moments of reflection. I cannot be with the loved ones who are mourning their lost family members and friends, but may my spirit join with them across all those miles, to be with them, and to strengthen them, to console them, and to grieve with them. I believe in the eternal bliss awaiting me, and I believe in the power of my soul to resonate with the souls who need the spirit and strength I now have. Amen."
Sean Patrick Brennan is an author and essayist from Malverne, New York. His second book, The Papal Visitor, was published in March 2014, and can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Papal-Visitor-Sean-Brennan-ebook/dp/B00IX76TGQ and in online bookstores worldwide.