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Compassion is not pity, not even empathetic pity. There is arrogance and haughty pride in pitying others. Compassion is when we are confronted with another’s suffering and we suffer with them. Their pain is ours. We are motivated to relieve their suffering. When we feel true compassion we help those who suffer, not as a cathartic release, but because it breaks our heart that they are hurting. I have not always known or believed these things, but I am thankful that I do now.
When the dancing stops, the problems remain. Each day we dance — or work, or study, or shop — as if this country does not have systemic injustice, as if some groups are not hurt in the everyday flow of society. Every now and again, a racial incident or an expression of art makes us pause and reflect, but we soon return to dancing, return to the avoidance that we crave.
Young visitors to the museum ask me, “What was it like to live during the civil rights struggle?” I gently tell them that we are living during the civil rights struggle. -David Pilgrim
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