A View From The Mesa: Are Costa Mesans too compassionate?

February 03, 2011|By Crissy Brooks

EDITOR'S NOTE: Crissy Brooks, the executive director of MIKA in Costa Mesa, has agreed to do occasional columns for the Daily Pilot. This is her first.


In a recent blog post, Councilwoman Wendy Leece asked, "Are Costa Mesans too compassionate?"

Her question came out of the recent conversations about the homeless population in town. Some folks say that our neighbors experiencing homelessness are here because they are drawn by the overly compassionate in Costa Mesa. Others say that people are here for a variety of reasons and we have the privilege and duty to help.

This question of compassion has got me thinking.

The word "compassion" comes from the Latin "com pati," meaning "to bear with, to suffer with."

I remember when my father was in the hospital for major brain surgery. Many people came to help us. They brought hams and flowers and said prayers, but the true comfort was the fact they were waiting with us.


There was nothing to do but wait. These friends came and sat in our pain with us. They suffered with us, showed us compassion, and that was a great comfort.

I like the question "Are we too compassionate?" because it brings up our notion of what it means to help. As good Americans, when we see a painful situation our questions usually are, "What can we do? How do we fix this? How can we make things better or right or good?"

These are great questions to ask and motivating to many. But if we are asking these questions before we consider compassion, then maybe we are jumping the gun.

How compassionate are we? What does it mean to suffer with our neighbors? How have we had to bear with the pain of one another? What is the pain that people in our city suffer?

I am not suggesting that we do nothing. Sitting around in pain together for long periods of time would turn us into a very sad people. But it would also turn us into a compassionate people.

And maybe, just maybe, the answers to the question "What can we do?" would come easier and more clear — once we understood the pain and had trust with those experiencing it.

Understanding that pain, and winning the trust of those experiencing it, is easier said than done. It's hard to step into a family's home in a motel room on Harbor Boulevard or to sit down to eat lunch with someone at the soup kitchen on 19th Street without being reminded of our own pain.

The questions come even faster to mind and are more confusing when we drive by a day laborer at 7-Eleven:

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles