After reading Mary Mayhew’s recent op-ed in the Press Herald defending the LePage administration’s welfare reform policies (“Le-Page administration’s welfare reform policies inherently compassionate,” Dec. 5), I began to question my own understanding of “compassion.”

It was Jim Means’ subsequent letter supporting Mayhew’s version (“DHHS Chief Mayhew gets that success is moving people off welfare,” Dec. 12) that sent me in search of the dictionary’s definition of “compassion.”

I quote: “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”

Means expressed his affirmation that “Mayhew is correct that true compassion is measured by how many people we can move off welfare.”

It is heartless to reduce blameless victims of misfortune to cold, unfeeling statistics in order to inflate one’s “success” record.

How many of the folks Mayhew has “moved off” welfare have actually found gainful employment at more than a minimum wage, enough to sustain self and family? How many have been left in limbo at the poverty level, unable to find any job, while being denied state assistance?

When taxpayer funds are squandered on bogus reports and witch-hunts for alleged fraud, where is the “strong desire to alleviate suffering”?

Our welfare system has room for improvement. But, unlike the LePage administration’s deficiency in “compassion,” surely we can institute more humane reform to prevent undeserving recipients from taking advantage of our generosity.

“True compassion” is measured by the “suffering” that we, as a traditionally caring state, can “alleviate,” rather than the number of “misfortunate” people we can “move off” our welfare rolls.

Sam Kamin

Cumberland