Compassion Fatigue?

It was a beautiful autumn morning (again! – how lucky we are to be able to say this almost half way through November!) and I have once again gone for a walk in the local park, as I am trying to do most mornings since TLC moved out of the Ark three weeks ago.

It would be very easy to continue and grow this lifestyle; filling my days with justifiable health, wellbeing, family admin, and me-time, before the post-school rush of activities, homework, dinner and (if I’m lucky) quality time with the family before another day closes in front of the TV, knitting my latest creation.

And it is tempting, for sure.

But then, last night as I was scrolling through BBC iPlayer, I spotted a programme that had been on earlier in the week, called Exodus: Our Journey Continues. I clicked on it, and snuggled down to watch the first episode.

Ten minutes in, I was crying.

Twenty minutes in, I was angry.

Thirty minutes in, I was desperate to reopen ToastLoveCoffee, immediately.

As I said goodnight to my husband, retiring to bed early, knowing he’d make the bed warm and leave the side light on for me to come up after, my insides churned as I watched a newly-wed Afghan couple in Thessaloniki assemble their tent after midnight because that’s what the authorities have enforced in the city, climb in and zip up to say goodbye to another day.

With my children sleeping soundly in their own beds, in their own rooms, my insides churned as I watched a mother rock her infant to sleep with a traditional melody, then place him gently next to his sleeping sister, on the one bed that they all occupy as a family, that doubles as a sofa in the daytime, in a refugee camp in Macedonia.

Worse was to come. The real stop-me-in-my-tracks moment was when the cameras took us to an abandoned railway building near Belgrade. Mainly young Afghan men are living here. Washing themselves outside in the snow from massive vats of water warmed over a fire. Living in disused train carriages. Was this really real, in twenty-first century Europe? Was this someone’s reality right now? RIGHT NOW? It’s almost beyond comprehension. It should be beyond comprehension, and I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t actually seen it in the documentary.


“What sort of humanity is this?” asks one of the residents in the railway building. And I don’t know how anyone can answer him…

It is shocking, shameful and wrong that anyone should be living in these conditions. It is shocking, shameful and wrong that people do not feel safe in the country in which they are born, for reasons out of their control. It is shocking, shameful and wrong that countries who are living peacefully, with resources to help, are not doing so wholeheartedly and with hands open wide.

What sort of humanity is this?

As I finally made my way to bed last night, my thoughts churning over everything I had watched, I resolved to never, ever, be accused of compassion fatigue, and to, however and whichever way possible within my little corner of the planet, try to make a positive difference in those people’s lives who are not as fortunate as I.

published by Anna Dyson
Founder and Director of ToastLoveCoffee. CEO of Dyson family, Roundhay (Leeds) branch which involves a huge array of skills impossible to imagine or articulate! Formerly, Jewish educator and community professional.


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