Compassion for All

I was on a plane last night, coming in for landing at Atlanta’s airport, and saw something out the window that made me think.  We were between layers of thick clouds and I knew that, to the people on the ground, this was a dark and gloomy night.  But I could see that the low clouds were aglow in several places with lights reflected up from the city, and it was not only uniquely beautiful, but also comforting.  What occurred to me is that sometimes, when things seem to be all darkness and gloom, there is light somewhere.  And, for me, that light is the compassion of people.

There has been no shortage of darkness in our world lately.  Our country was united in shock and grief last week after the shooting in Newtown; I felt my own heart aching for the children, the teachers, and the families.  As a parent, I could not help but weep for those parents – I cannot imagine the depth of their sorrow – and it was obvious that parents all across this country felt the same deep compassion. It made me feel a little bit better to see the outpouring of sorrow and support from everywhere.

It had seemed to me that compassion – that is, the ability to care about other people who aren’t directly connected to us – has been what is too often missing in our country, as we strive to unite behind our commonalities while maintaining our own individuality.    How, after all, could anyone with the ability to feel compassion reject and exclude our families?  We love one another and our children just as fiercely, and our hearts break just as much in time of loss.  And yet, we often have to struggle to simply be acknowledged AS family.

Earlier this month, the legally married, same-sex spouse of a Lt. Colonel in the Army, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., was denied membership in the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses, because she “didn’t qualify.”   This woman has for 15 years supported her spouse’s military service, including multiple deployments, and they have two young children together. (Ashley Broadway pictured; courtesy of OutServe/SLDN) The club tried to justify their discrimination with a lame, after-the-fact excuse, that she had no “military dependent” card. But, this is a private club, beholden only to their own rules. I wonder how anyone with an ounce of compassion could not embrace this beautiful, loving military family?   And so we are proud to stand with OutServe/SLDN ( in their efforts to find the compassion in the ranks of other military families and welcome one of our families with the same love and support for which they have been long known.

Just as Sandyhook reminded us of darkness, and each of us held our children a little more closely (in our hearts or in our arms), so too did it remind us that compassion is out there.  My holiday wish is that it keeps growing and growing until it extends to all families, everywhere.