I caught a bit of an interview on NPR today. Terri Gross was interviewing a former Episcopal minister (also a woman) and the ex-minister was talking about how she noticed “compassion fatigue” when she got out of the ministering business. It was a huge load off of her, and she didn’t even realize that she had it!
I identified with that. Not so much with compassion, but with some other things while I was in Yemen. It occurs to me that while I was there, I was always trying to be the model American and the model Christian. For many of the locals, I was the only one of either that they had ever met, and I might be the only one they ever meet. I was always conscious of having to set an example. I felt that if I did something to upset them or offend them they would most likely generalize that experience to include all Americans and Christians.
After a while, it became routine for me, but it was always there. When I got back, I knew I had to recuperate, but I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was recuperating from. I think a big part of it was getting used to not sticking out anymore. I’m just another guy here, I’m not the Christian, the American, I’m just another person… The anonymity is really nice, all the pressure is gone. I don’t think I realized what kind of strain that put on me until I got used to the idea that I wouldn’t have to be an example any more. It was a huge weight off of me, and I feel much better because of it.