The Price of Compassion


The Price of Compassion

Compassion. What’s it worth? How much do we charge for it?

Foreign concepts? Not so. The monetizing of compassion is well under way. When did it start? Was it always so? Whooaaaa—so many questions. Time to slow down and try to answer them. Perhaps I’ll tell you a story instead.

This story is partially fiction and partially real. The issues were very real. The lack of compassion was and is very real.

Millie is, like me, older. She was in a section of a hospital I recently left. She was there because her life was slowly ending, and her anxiety had gotten the best of her. The end of life is not pleasant in most cases.

Millie has a terminal illness that is slowly killing her. She lives essentially alone and struggles to meet her everyday needs. She is out-of-income for most help simply because she owns her home. I tried to convince her to sell her home and move on to government housing, but she has lived in it for most of her adult life—raised children there, buried a husband, etc. She wants to die there.

Millie often had more than she needed when she was younger and shared her good fortune with those in need. She felt compassion for people around her. She never had riches, but she had enough. She aways thought she would have enough. She never dreamed her compassion would cost her, so she never saved for the days when compassion would have a price tag.

Millie is a proud woman and has difficulty asking for help. When she asks for help, she is often disappointed. The simplest things cost. She needed her toenails cut, and, you could say, practically begged able-bodied adults to cut them. Her hands, like mine, are crippled. She cannot cut them herself. She was denied this simple act of kindness. The answer was no from everyone she asked. A simple act of compassion came with a price tag. She had to wait for a doctor who never came to cut them. She went home with her toenails long enough to hurt. Try to imagine this. Put yourself in Millie’s place.

Millie has no cash. Millie barely drives—only when necessary. Millie struggles to buy food. She survives mostly on the meals-on-wheel program and gets one meal a day. She has been reduced from a vibrant, self-sustaining woman to relying on the compassion of others. But compassion has a price tag, and she has no money.

The unit Millie was placed on only allowed comments of positivity. Since Millie was forced to strive for this positivity, and talk of her inability to do things was often hushed as if it was negative, when she needed help zipping clothing, she had to ask fellow patients for help. Physical infirmity, she felt, was not allowed. Though she had been told by doctors there was no hope for her; somehow hope was supposed to spring from a brain which was slowly atrophying.

Trump has cut the meals-on-wheels program. Compassion’s cost was too dear.  Millie’s only food source may soon dry up. Her electricity will be shut off soon.

“It’ll be dark, but I won’t be cold,” She says with a grin.  She lives in an area that is currently warming.

She fears if she sells her home, government assisted housing may dry up, and she may be forced to live in a nursing home. She would prefer to go homeless. But she fears being wet and cold, and she is physically incapable of carrying any necessities she may need.

Millie has pride. She has little else. She has only one way out to escape with her pride. It’s all she has left.

Perhaps the price of compassion is too great after all.

Copyright 2017 Joyce Bowen

About the Author:  Joyce Bowen is a freelance writer and public speaker.  Inquiries can be made at
Sobre el autor: Joyce Bowen es un escritorindependiente y orador público. Las consultaspuedenhacerse en
My Patron site.  Please support my work.

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