Hunter "Patch" Adams, May 15, 1998
Before I began to write about compassion, I went to dictionary.com, which describes it as: “A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another, who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
British poet James Kirkup said, “…with proper grace. Informing a correct compassion, that performs its love, and makes it live.” Wow, I have just reread the last eight words several times, and I am awed by their beauty.
I was struck, too, by the realization that compassion is not a wimpy little feeling. It does not merely look and pity and pass on. It enters into the feelings of the sufferer and inspires the compassionate one actually to do something to make things better. Compassion has elements of sympathy and love and strength, but it also has muscle, for want of a better word.
Patch Adams’s inspiring story is a perfect example of compassion, or love, in action. I was very distressed to hear that Universal Studios had failed to keep their promise to build the hospital, and that Patch Adams received no money from the film. From a 1999 New York Times article I learned that: “Patch Adams” the Robin Williams comedy about an unconventional doctor, was released last Christmas Day and went on to earn $135 Million at the domestic box office and $200 Million worldwide.
Rather than becoming embittered and withdrawing from the fray, Patch Adams just keeps on being Patch Adams and doing what he does best, helping people to heal from the inside out. I like the TV show “House” and watch Gregory House with a sort of horrified fascination. Most of his patients make it, true, but he is no Patch Adams. He frequently wreaks serious injury on his patients in his attempts to cure them. Since House is what I think would be classified as a functioning sociopath, if it’s all the same to you I’ll take Patch Adams’s brand of healing.
Doctors should be teaching us how to be healthy, and to notice when our bodies are out of tune, so that we can stay healthy. Nowadays we only see our doctors when we’re ill, when we’re out of tune with our natural rhythms. Do you think it’s a coincidence that doctors are said to practice medicine? I want a doctor who knows what he’s doing!
Patch Adams has inspired me to take a new look at compassion and he needs my help, and yours, to carry on his work. I pledge to do my part.