Avoiding Compassion Fatigue in an ADHD World

Remember Biafra?

If you’re of a certain age—likely, 60 years old or more—you might remember magazine covers and TV shows devoted to the awful famine in Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War.

How awful was it?

Biafran Victims

More than 3 million people died of starvation. That is roughly equivalent to the combined populations of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg.


Remember Bangladesh?

Beatle George Harrison staged the first of the “big star concerts” to raise money for the famine there in 1971. Everybody bought the multi-LP album that featured Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Eric Clapton, and other musical greats of the day.

Estimates hover around 1.5 million for the casualties of Bangladesh’s famine after its civil war with Pakistan. That’s roughly the population of Montreal.

We don’t talk about Biafra or Bangladesh anymore, the way few of us talk nowadays about Sudan, or Kampuchea, or Haiti, or the Tōhoku region of Japan.

Today our attention is focused on—well, whatever today’s news focuses on. But it’s not as if everything today is fine in Nigeria, or Bangladesh, or Sudan, or the rest, right?

So how do we properly respond to a big world in which needs surface according to their “newsworthiness” but rarely get solved immediately, and instead just disappear from our notice?

The best advice I was ever given about charity was this: Listen to your world, to the people you know and the causes you recognize, pray about them, and then commit to contributing what you can to those few that stand out to you.

Instead, that is, of responding to every push of the “compassion” button, which runs the risk of compassion fatigue, invest in a few key causes: month after month, year after year. Learn about them. Communicate with the agencies you admire and encourage them. And give what you can, in money and other resources, to help them flourish.

By way simply of illustration, then, let me tell you that my wife and I give regularly to Haiti Partnersbecause my cousin Kent Annan helps to run it, and we admire Kent, and because it does interesting, innovative work to educate Haitians for a better future.

[Read the rest of this post HERE.]

One Response to “Avoiding Compassion Fatigue in an ADHD World”

  1. Debbie Timmons

    Thank you Prof. Stackhouse. This subject came up in discussion tonight at my ladies Bible study. I found your article helpful in settling my mind in
    how I should respond. My son suggested I sign up to read your blog. I find everything thought provoking, sometimes a little too much for an ordinary Mom like me, but I like being able to discuss your topics with my son Barron. Thank you . Sincerely Debbie Timmons


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