Gift of CompassionPosted: April 2, 2012
I was reminded the other day of an exchange my daughter and I shared with a stranger some time last fall and the lesson of compassion that came from it. My daughter was five at the time, and she and I made a quick stop following our flu shots for some Tylenol. As we walked into the store, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless sitting on the bench just outside. I noticed my daughter notice.
I started with a conversation with her upon entering the store. “Did you notice that man outside?” She nodded. I wondered aloud with her if he had a place to stay, or anything to eat. Following her receptivity, I said “let’s get him something.” She immediately jumped aboard, and marched throughout the store, talking excitedly about what to share. She chose a roll from the bakery and I chose a piece of fruit. We topped it off with a bottle of orange juice. “What if he is gone when we get out there? Hurry up mom!” She placed the groceries and the Tylenol on the belt, and without hesitation took the bag from the clerk, and led me back to where we saw the man. He was indeed still there. She walked shyly up to him, gesturing for me to make the first move. I said “good morning, we have a little breakfast treat that we wanted to share with you.” On cue, my daughter handed him the bag. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” We all exchanged friendly smiles. He took the bag, and we walked to our car.
I feel blessed to have witnessed the collision of this experience with my daughter’s spirit. Once alone in our car, I remember her saying “if I saw someone that couldn’t walk, I’d help them mommy.”
And so it begins. Compassion…noticing the need in another and feeling moved to respond. We live in a pretty individualistic, self-serving and competitive society. We work hard for our money, to provide a home for our families, and ourselves and constantly strive to do better. But what often gets overlooked in this is the need for us to look outside of ourselves, and to know that we can make a difference in the lives of those around us.
We should not be compassionate to others to fill ourselves, or get others to notice. We need to be compassionate to others because it is the right thing to do. If you need more than “it is the right thing to do,” how about the side effect? If executed authentically, not only the receiver benefits, but the giver does too. The receiver has been given a meaningful and often times needed gift, no strings attached, and the giver is bathed in value and well-being.
We need to teach our kids the importance of noticing the need in others. As much else in life, this too begins in our homes. It starts with the modeling of compassionate and respectful exchanges between husbands and wives or parenting partners, among extended family members, and with friends. People are people. I want my kids to grow up believing that and seeing the good in others. I am grateful for that moment with my daughter and a complete stranger last year. She saw this man for who he was inside, a person just like you and I. A person who, just needed a little compassion.