The necessity of love and compassion

The Necessity of Love and Compassion by Avril Kidd, EQ in Action, South Africa
Written by: Avril Kidd
Category: Life Skills
As much as we may think we can control our lives, there's always something waiting around the corner to challenge us. How we respond to these challenges will determine our experience.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.


As much as we may think we can control our lives, there’s always something waiting around the corner to challenge us. In the space of 2 months, I went from being a highly active individual who walked the promenade or trained in the gym daily, to needing a knee replacement.

I started this month with a trip to the Beautiful Protea Chisamba Lodge in Lusaka with my Hybrid Poultry Management team, debriefing and strategizing around their Team Vital Signs Assessment, and ended it spending 3 nights in the Busamed Gateway Hospital.

The commonality of these 2 experiences, and witnessing real customer service and care at work was heart-warming. The attentiveness of the Zambians was excellent, and ensured a wonderful experience in their beautiful resort; whilst the nursing staff and doctors of Busamed provided top class empathetic patient care.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes by Carl Buchner, that “people may forget what you say, but never how you make them feel”. I was so fortunate to have been made to feel extremely special and valued over both experiences. Being bed-bound gave me the perfect opportunity to people-watch …


What always astounds me is how people in the same environment see and react to things so differently

After my surgery I shared a room with an elderly lady who also had a knee replacement the day before I did. Like all of us, she was uncomfortable and in pain. Her way of dealing with it was to demand constant attention, find nothing to be thankful for, and frequently criticize the staff, from the canteen attendants to the most senior nurses. If the staff were attending to me, it became a trigger for her many needs. To say she required a huge amount of attention is putting it mildly.

Despite this, the nursing staff showed constant patience, care and compassion. After2 days and her transference to a step-down facility, roommate no 2 arrived, equally as advanced in age, and in as much pain. She had fallen and broken her leg in 3places before being rushed by ambulance from Dundee to Durban. A kinder, more grateful woman I have never seen. She constantly thanked the staff for their kindness, checked up on me, apologized in advance for any moaning or snoring that may happen in her sleep, and found every opportunity to display gratitude and love.

What did these 2 women have in common?

Both were extremely chatty, hard of hearing, well-loved mothers and grandmothers.

 How did they differ?

In the way they viewed their circumstances, their attitudes, and how they choose to show up in the world. Their viewing points were polar opposites and, as a consequence, so was their behaviour.

While one focused on the good of human nature and what to be grateful for in the world, the other fixated on what was wrong, how hard done by she was and where she could find fault in others. One was a giver, the other a taker.

Personally, having shared this restricted space with each of them, the first left me feeling irritated, frustrated and resentful whilst the other made me feel cared for, special and so humbled. To my Dundee roommate, your strength and kindness made me want to be a better, braver person. I’m sure your expression of love and gratitude to the hard-working health care workers, made their shifts so much more worthwhile. I know that in many health care facilities, the level of care given is below par, due to staff and skill shortages, but when we are privileged to be taken care of in a top facility by people who show compassion, care and passion for their work, gratitude is a really small gift to give.

So often we complain about poor service, and I heard my needy roomie’s family often saying, in response to her numerous complaints, that she must take note of staff names and report them for slow response time, etc. But where was the appreciation for the endless patience and care given to an often-irrational, overly demanding person?

This was, and continued to be for the next few weeks, a challenging time for me as I am an extremely independent person who was forced to be dependent on others while, during high pain moments, having had to navigate my extreme emotions.

A kind word or check-in at the right time can change someone’s emotion from despair to hope, from sadness to laughter. Compassionate empathy in action can mean the world to people!


Lessons learned

  1. We can do so much more together than alone.
  2. Optimism is a choice as much as it is an attitude. It is your choice how you view the world.
  3. An attitude of gratitude is beautiful to witness, experience, to give, and to receive.
  4. Knee replacements are ridiculously painful!
  5. There are compassionate, kind souls in this world who make a positive impact in people’s lives and there are still medical staff who follow Florence Nightingale’s noble goal, “to provide humane, careful and compassionate medical care”.

If you provide compassionate care, I thank and salute you; and if you are ever on the receiving end of this care, be grateful and appreciative and express your gratitude whenever you can.