November 11, 2010

Don't you dare tell Mary Beth Danielson
that you're suffering from compassion fatigue

By Mary Beth Danielson
For RacinePost
 I was driving back to work today after meeting a friend for lunch.  On the radio was an interview with a woman who works for a medical services program in Haiti.

I won’t go into the sad urgencies in that beleaguered country.  Decimated by poverty, rocked (literally) by the earthquake, subjected to torrential rains, now it is on the teetering edge of a cholera epidemic.  The interviewer asked the doctor, “But how do you raise funds when people seem to be suffering compassion fatigue?”

Compassion fatigue? 

Apparently the phrase means that if we hear too many hard luck stories, we shut down and pay attention to none of them. 

Oh, on some levels I get it.  There are more places to give money than we have money to give. There are more cause to support, than we have energy and time to support.

But Compassion Fatigue?  What an ugly thought and phrase.  Do we really, really want to measure out our empathy in doses, like cups of flour in a cake?  Is it okay for us to shut our eyes, close our ears, and just say, “Oops, sorry, I gave at the office”? Or “So sorry, I can’t think about suffering anymore, I have too much to do. I’m really very busy, you know.” 

Compassion fatigue? Good heavens. Compassion makes us be our best selves.   

Did you know that compassion is a stage of development? When small children play together, and one bumps his noggin and cries, and the kid next to him hands him a Teddy bear -- that moment of tyke compassion is a sign of healthy human development.

Which begs the question.  What do you call it when banks, or investment firms, or the uber-rich take over a viable, working company; then squeeze it with layoffs to “maximize profit”?  

This is what happens.  Raw greed takes over and our best humanity flies out the window. As we Americans, living in this time, know too well. 

Here’s another thing.  Look at your life.  When were you more beautiful, more noble, or having more fun than when you were inconveniently generous? When you made extra food and shared it, how great did you feel later? When you worked with others to fix a house for a person in need, did that make you less or more of an awesome person? When you joined a group that traveled across the county or across the globe to do your small part to serve people in need; was that awful or was that fun?

For me it was so many moments.  I have helped host dozens of Mayaworks Fair Trade sales of products made by Maya women in Guatemala.  It’s always a pile of work, and I’d be lying if I said I did all this with the Light of The Divine in my soul.  Nah, I complain a lot. 

But I went to Guatemala.  I stayed some days in the home of a MayaWorks weaver. I played checkers (I’d brought the game with me) on a rickety wooden table, beneath the only light bulb in the dark, unpainted, very, very poor home, with the handsome, dark-eyed 15-year-old son of the family. He was the only person in that family of 12 who sort of understood the rules of the game.  And, I swear, the other 11 members of the family all crowded around us in that dim room, cheering him on, except for 10-year-old Patricia who wanted me to win.  I lost.  She hugged me anyway. 

Here’s the stunning thing.  He was done with his homework for the day. I knew that because MayaWorks orders woven products from his mother, and she makes enough money to allow him the time to go to school.  In the third world, most 15-year-old boys are already working full-time.
My (whiney) compassion helped make a world where that handsome kid could have a future. 
Compassion makes us stronger.  It helps us make friends.  It leads us into adventures. It saves us from the tedium of being ridiculously rich. 

When we do our part to lift others, we are lifted. 
Of course I want you to come to some MayaWorks sales.  If you want to know more about MayaWorks check out

I am hosting the sale at Wilson’s.  Stop by and say hi to me.

Saturday, Nov. 13                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Fall Health & Gift Fest at Lake House Health & Learning Center   932 Lake Ave.           
Start your shopping in a beautiful Victorian home (that happens to be for sale).                                   

Saturday, Nov. 20                         8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Wilson’s Coffee & Tea   3306 Washington Ave.

Free Bonus Offer – Free writing sampler created by Mary Beth Danielson and her husband Leonard for shoppers who purchase something from Wilson’s AND something from MayaWorks. 

Saturday, Nov. 27                        10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Racine Marriott Hotel             7111 Washington Ave.
Free entrance with donation of non-perishable food item. Expo offers homemade crafts, jewelry, holiday gifts, wood crafts, pottery, gift baskets, and raffles. Snack bar available.

Friday & Saturday, December 3rd, 5-8PM  &  4th, 9AM-4PM
Quaker Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place
, Milwaukee
 Shop for eclectic holiday gifts from around the world while you help support non-profit organizations. Enjoy hot drinks & hearty eats in the café. Bring along a non-perishable food item to donate.

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  1. I have guilt fatigue. No, I don't feel particularly guilty, but I am tired of people using guilt as a sales technique. I am glad that Mary Beth Danielson is recognizing the benefits of free trade. The boy in the family gets to go to school. Great! Multiply this by several billion and you start to see the positives associated with free trade. So why the unnecessary swipe at banks, investment firms and the rich? These people and institutions are investing their money, proving products and services for customers, which in turn creates jobs etc.... No need for the gratuitous slap at successful businesses. Would you rather that businesses not bother with profits? That business would soon end and with it the associated jobs etc...

  2. Denis - I agree. If it weren't for the banks and companies where would the jobs come from that allow people to donate. I guess Mary Beth would rather see business fail - she appears to be another socialist in our community. I do agree there are a lot of needs and causes to donate time and money too - but why do we always hear about those energies going outside of our community or outside of the U.S. There are so many people that need assistance close to home that I don't understand why the Oparah's, Brad Pitt and Angelena need to go outside of the U.S. Let's help our people first - and let's not tear down the companies that provide the jobs and money to assist others. Mary Beth what have you done lately in your own community?

  3. Here's what Mary Beth does:, the only news source in Racine to report what is really happening on our streets. She does it alone and unpaid, and has cultivated a large following amongst those of us who daily face crime in our neighborhoods. Of course, that is irrelevant to a resident of North Bay. Before that, she worked with a judge to change our state law regarding driving offenses. (Her sister was the victim of a repeat offender.)

    The "offending" quote from the blog: "What do you call it when banks, or investment firms, or the uber-rich take over a viable, working company; then squeeze it with layoffs to 'maximize profit'?" Well, what do you call it? Business as usual? She did not accuse every bank, investment firm, and/or rich person of wringing out companies for profits at the expense of employees. I assumed that she was talking about the exceptions in business - if you assume that every business is run that way, then that reflects on your character and tendencies.

    Personally, I have swine fatigue. I'm tired of pigs squealing when they don't get ALL of the slop.

  4. Denis Navratil is a complete and ugly hypocrite to discuss the benefit of free trade blogging from the safety of Dimple's Imports. Creating jobs? Besides yourself, how many American jobs are created by the slave labor products you hawk in your shop Denis? Of course he's tired of "guilt as a sales technique". The Indian children who cheaply make his products allow him to live a nice life and send his children to school so they don't have to work in factory prisons for the rest of their lives.

  5. What has Mary Beth done in her own community? Her tax dollars bailed out those banks and investment firms! Idiots.

  6. Btw sir, "what have you done lately in your own community?" I mean, besides supporting a pedo mayor?

  7. Orbs - this lady has way too much time on her hands to sit and listen to a scanner all day.

  8. What a win-win situation. I've seen these Mayaworks weavings and utilitarian objects. They are beautiful, unique, reasonable priced and great gifts for yourself or a special friend. And besides, most of the profits go back to the women who created these objects and enable them to send their children to school and improve their standard of living. Viva Mary Beth and the volunteers of this wonderful endeavor.

  9. Denis Navratil has the ability to turn something beautiful into something negative! I'm sure glad he doesn't still write those comentaries for the Racine Journal Times! Denis' writings and attitude are reasons I will never shop in Dimples, and I tell others to do likewise!

  10. sir, try living in my neighborhood for a week and you will appreciate the value that Racine Uncovered provides. I know that you are rich and don't give a damn about us, that's your prerogative. But picking on a lady who offers a volunteer service to inner city residents is pretty low, even for you.

    As an aside, are you the rich kid I went to school with who was drunk all the time and couldn't graduate with his class? He has inherited his daddy's company and lying John now touts him as a "leader" of the Racine business community - I assume that's when he's sober enough to stand up. It sure sounds like you, sitting in your castle above the fray, providing "jobs" and contempt for those beneath you.

  11. Someone who actually goes out and CHANGES state law, and sir says, "what have you done lately in your own community?"

    Oink, oink, oink.

  12. Orb - What a ridiculous question - what are there 80,000 people in Racine and you think I'm the kid that went to school with you. You are more of an idiot than I thought. And not that I need to justify anything to you, I am very active in volunteering in Racine, support agencies as a board member and fiscally very generous in our community - what have you done besides whine about your neighborhood. If it is so bad do something about it rather than reading scanner reports.

  13. Name calling already. You are in fine form. Finished the first liter of the day yet?

    I'm done with you.

  14. Orbs - I see you do not deny it - I'm done with you. You are dismissed.

  15. Denis Navratil is a tool. Expounding on the virtues of free trade with his import shop of non-American made tchotchkes. He's a true patriot and he wants you to know it first.


  16. THANK YOU Mary Beth Danielson for all that you do for the citizens of Racine. We appreciate the truth about our city, as opposed to the lies from Dickert and his hired liars.

  17. I admire people like Sir and Navratil who can make a case for ignoring the corruption and injustice that the global economy have wrought on millions including those that Navratil makes his dime off of. More amazing is their scapegoating of people who actually try and make life better for others and encourage others to join in as well.

    I wonder to succeed in this position, do you have to be blind or stupid or both?

  18. It requires a dead spot in your soul (or perhaps no soul) to say one thing while doing the opposite. That is how you rule over others and quantify your existence as more "important" than others. Our country is filled with millions of "Christians" who do just that every day. Indeed, if Christ were to reappear today, current "Christians" would be in the forefront of those calling for His crucifixion. "Love others as yourself." Ha! That's "communist" and "socialist"!

  19. Orbs, what bothers me about what you call the offending quote is the apparent attitude towards banks, investment firms, and the rich. Of course some such individuals are loathsome but the same is true of some small business owners, some individual investors, some people of modest means etc.... If Danielson wants to advertise the wonderful things she is doing, great. Why take a needless shot at successful businesses and business people? Seems like needless class warfare to me. Denis Navratil.

  20. Denis - it's because people like Danielson and Orbs hate success.

  21. Needless shot? $700 Billion in TARP, years of favorable regulations, ridiculous bonuses and the Federal Reserve infusing Wall Street with cash. I think they're doing just fine and hardly wasting time crying about the offhanded remark Ms. Danielson has made. Whaaaaaa! You're so mean to the Citicorp head who made $9m in 2009.

    The teabag meme that "Corporations are Good" is straight out of the Koch Brothers playbook and Denis is a faithful servant. No matter how much they pollute, monopolize or game the system we must never, ever impinge their ability make huge profits and ship jobs overseas. The free market is holy.

    Denis on the other hand is absolved from making his modest living off the backs of workers paid slave-wages who should happy to just make any money at all.

  22. It's people like Danielson who remind us that ALL people should have the chance to be successful. And unless "Sir" you are in the top .05% you ain't one of them either.

  23. Denis and Sir carry water for billionaires who told them painting the fence was SOOOOO much fun.

  24. Racineuncovered is run by someone else, not Mary Beth Danielson.

  25. Yes, I made a big mistake. Mary Beth Danielson is not the person who runs Racine Uncovered. My apologies all around.

  26. OH MY GOD! Someone else -- has found the key to the Navratil success.

    Anonymous said...

    Denis Navratil is a complete and ugly hypocrite to discuss the benefit of free trade blogging from the safety of Dimple's Imports. Creating jobs? Besides yourself, how many American jobs are created by the slave labor products you hawk in your shop Denis? Of course he's tired of "guilt as a sales technique". The Indian children who cheaply make his products allow him to live a nice life and send his children to school so they don't have to work in factory prisons for the rest of their lives.
    11/12/2010 10:03 AM

  27. Anon 7:41 (or is it 10:03?) I would be happy to debate you if I could detect anything resembling a coherent thought in your argument. Where, for example, is my hypocrisy? I believe in free trade and I engage in it. That would be consistency, not hypocrisy. As for job creation, I have created a few and I won't apologize for doing so. Your accusation of child labor comes with no evidence. Child labor is illegal in India. Can't say I blame you for remaining anonymous.

  28. I guess I would like to comment on a different part of the article...

    Mary Beth, I'm sorry that the radio commentator chose to use the term "compassion fatigue" is a real and serious issue that applies more to social workers/therapists/psychologists, etc. It doesn't have to do with the general public as much as a person whose job it is to listen to traumatic events/lives/issues all day long. It isn't used as an excuse for narcissism, but more of a warning sign to make sure that clinicians keep themselves healthy and helpful to those they work with.

    More information can be found here :

  29. Indian law says that children under the age of 14 cannot be legally employed except by family owned business. The law is routinely ignored and punishment is nearly non-existent. Indian officials claim that nearly 30 million children are laborers but human rights organizations say it's 80 to 100 million. Millions of children are bonded into labor still. Wonder how that free market is working for them?

    But you already knew that Denis.

  30. I am not here to defend India but rather myself from your vague and evidence-free accusations. Is my crime that I purchase products from one of our most important trading partners and the worlds largest democracy? If so, I am guilty. Perhaps anon you should focus your energy on the current resident of the White House who just concluded some trade agreements with India. I guess that would make us all child exploiters given your warped view of the world.

  31. Denis - meeting illogic with logic only stimulates anger and emotion in stupid people. Good luck trying though -

  32. What is very interesting to me in this thread is that on one hand, Mary Beth Danielson has made a cause of visiting Guatemala and staying with the laborers of the MayaWorks textile cooperative. Seeing that while they are indeed very poor,MayaWorks offers them hope, dignity and the possibility of a better life and education for their children.

    On the other hand is Denis Navratil, who's business is based on Indian imported goods- a country with a tragic and concerning record of child labor and worker exploitation. Now, every product in his store may not have been made by the hands of children who- in a more perfect world- should be in school. But I doubt he has spent much time in the homes of the laborers (not the owners) of his products.

    Denis claims to have guilt-fatigue and it's no wonder why. Ms. Danielson rails against compassion-fatigue, and again it's no wonder. She knows that are trade and manufacturing models that enhance the lives of workers and make profits. She understands that when one is lifted we all are lifted and I agree with her

    Denis may not want to defend India, who would? However, the free market does allow one important choice- who we buy from and how we spend our money. While I cannot go to Guatemala, I will be at the MayaWorks sale and passing Dimple's by when I walk down Main Street this holiday season.

  33. Mayaworks yes; Dimples No!

  34. Anon 10:58, you assume, incorrectly, that I want your business. Keep on walking.

  35. Yup, I say vote with your feet and your dollars! Keep on walking. Denis doesn't want compassion or your business.

  36. "In the third world, most 15-year-old boys are already working full-time."

    Anon, that quote is from the above article. But you are going to buy products from Guatemala even though child labor is common there? What was that you were saying about hypocrisy?

  37. You know Denis, I've been following this thread since yesterday and I'd like to give you some advice: Be quiet.

    You are the one who started in dumping on someone who was just try to point out that caring for others is a worthwhile activity even when we think we don't have the time.

    You are the one who chirped in about the free market and defending banks when you run an import shop with goods made in the third world.

    If you are gonna pile on someone who's just saying something nice, you better be prepared to defend yourself and have people point out your deficiencies as well.

    If you can't take it, then please, just be quiet.

  38. Thanks but no thanks on the advice anon. In case you hadn't noticed, this is the comment section. I have some advice for you. If you don't like my comments, don't read them.

  39. Geez, people, how about taking it down a notch? This is Racine, not Washington. We don't need a rally to restore decency.

    It seems to me that this is a good example of why you can't look at everything as if it was black and white. People are always going to need to buy stuff and they're going to consider their self-interest when they decide where and what to spend their money on.

    At the same time, this country is wonderfully rich both in money and conscience. That means we shop on price, but we can also give some thought to the impact our purchases make.

    What we need, and what I thought the original article was addressing, was a little common ground. It's OK to buy things, but we need to give some consideration to the people who make them. Are they working in dangerous conditions, are poisonous chemicals being poured into lakes and rivers? It's crazy to say, 'No, don't buy anything,' but it's also crazy to say that child labor isn't something that we should be concerned about. If there is one thing that Racine people care about it is children.

    What I'm seeing in this dialogue is the idea that "Guilt Fatigue" means we don't have to think at all about who makes the stuff we buy. That the only thing that counts is money, and workers' lives count for nothing. That we shouldn't ask if child labor is involved because asking those questions makes us weak.

    I'm not perfect, and I can't always investigate who makes the food I eat or the clothes I buy. But I know what is important to me, and when a group such as Mayaworks tells me what they are about, I respect them. At the same time, when a merchant say that he disrespects my principles categorically, I guess I'll take my business elsewhere this season.

    They say that merchants are expecting more shoppers this year, but that people will be more selective about what they buy. That means selective about the price they pay, but also selective about the kind of business they shop at. Let's see what that means for businessmen who advertise "Guilt Fatigue."

  40. Nice try anon pretending to be multiple people. Your flawed reasoning gives you away.

  41. Hey denis you are really kind of a jerk aren't you? Be proud man, most people don't let their assiness flag fly.

  42. Denis, quit when you're behind!

  43. ...What do you call it when banks, or investment firms, or the uber-rich take over a viable, working company; then squeeze it with layoffs to “maximize profit”?...

    Creating a return to pension fund investors - so that Mary Beth and other State workers can retire nicely.