What does it mean to be “humane?” The dictionary says it means something that is characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering of the distressed.” It is a clear definition, but vague, like other definitions easily interpreted in different ways.
I like it, though, this definition. I am tender to my animals, compassionate towards them. I show sympathy for people and animals, and I am acutely aware of the suffering of the distressed, even as that seems to be out of fashion. I felt this most acutely in my hospice work, where we worked hard to ease the suffering and distress of people at the edge of life.
I remember finding Rose on the floor at the back door of the farmhouse, shivering in a pool of freezing vomit.
She looked so broken in spirit as I picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket and cleaned her off. I can remember how clearly I heard the words “help me,” and I said back to her, “I will take care of you. I will help you now.” I was so grateful to be able to end her suffering, even as I was so sorry to lose her from my life. It was, I thought, such a gift to her, such a humane thing to do.
There are so many different notions about what it means to be humane.