What's critical to compassion is that it unites this understanding of others' distress with the motivation to alleviate that distress. Helping behavior further requires the cognitive and behavioral resources to act on that motivation.
In what cities is a needy stranger more likely to receive help? What sort of community teaches a citizen to withhold compassion toward strangers? Dr. Robert Levine has spent much of the past two decades systematically exploring these questions.
As human beings, we will inevitably encounter suffering at some point in our lives. However, we also have evolved very specific social mechanisms to relieve that pain: altruism and compassion.