This post is part of the #1000Speak movement, where more than 1,000 bloggers will attempt to change the world by writing about compassion.
“Compassion is a verb.”
Compassion — a deep awareness of the suffering of another accompanied by the wish to relieve it. That means when you hear Sarah Mclachlan’s voice you automatically want to send a donation to the ASPCA. Or when George Clooney asks for help on TV, you send money. Or when someone you know is ill, you help.
For most of us, this is a natural instinct, at least to some degree. We see someone hurting, and we want to do something about it.
Compassion becomes more difficult when the situation is not so black and white. It’s judging the mom who left her child at home alone for fear she would lose her job. Instead of rallying behind a cause that could help single mothers, we condemn a woman who is just trying to survive. Or a lack of understanding for a woman who stays in a relationship where she is being abused, when she should simply just leave, without thinking of the fear and isolation she must be experiencing. Or believing that someone who suffers mental illness and takes his own life took the easy way out.
And then there is the compassion we should offer to those people we encounter on a daily basis. Those people that don’t necessarily deserve it. The people who make our life more difficult day in and day out. The guy who cuts in line at the movie, the mom who constantly talks about how great their kid is, the cable guy who is three hours late.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Huh.
This Dalai Mama thinks he may be on to something, but unless you are a Tibetan monk, it’s pretty difficult to incorporate compassion into today’s hectic life, especially when it feels like the universe is conspiring against you. I mean no offense to the DL, but he never needed to get to soccer practice, the library and a PTA meeting all within fifteen minutes of each other.
Being compassionate to those we encounter in our daily lives– those who seem to get in our way or those who we have the perception are doing something to us — is tough. This is the reason they call it “practicing” compassion.
Let me tell you a little story about my cable guy, Victor.
Victor was supposed to arrive at my house between the hours of 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. to re-connect my TV and Internet. He did not arrive until 6:30 p.m. causing me to miss a few appointments and a dinner I was going to attend. However, I forgave him because he only arrived late due to his efforts to coordinate free cable for a woman’s shelter. He worked two jobs — the first as a tech for the cable company, and at night he fixed computers for a local business. His wife, three sons and parents lived in Slovakia, and he sent all his money to support them since there were not many jobs available since the war. He lived in a small apartment with three other men from his country, and drove an hour just to get to work each day.
It was hard to be upset with Victor knowing what he faced and the love he had for his family. It was easy to feel compassion for such an endearing soul.
Except this story is completely made up. This is the story I created to keep my head from exploding after waiting the entire afternoon for the cable guy to show up. I was attempting to practice compassion by convincing myself that Victor wasn’t a jerk.
The real Victor was a young kid who told me he still lived at home with his parents. He looked a little bit like Eminem (not that there is anything wrong with that), and he was late because he was new and had to turn around twice because he left his cell phone at prior appointments. He was unapologetic and not particularly kind. Although I wanted to tear him a new one for ruining my afternoon, my guess is he had already been ripped to shreds that day by prior customers.
Love me when I least deserve it, because that is when I need it the most. — Swedish Proverb.
I wanted to teach this young man a lesson. I wanted to unleash my rage. I wanted him to understand how frustrating it is to deal with the cable company; but something about Victor told me life wasn’t very kind to him. Instead of taking my frustration out on this young man, I practiced compassion to the best of my ability. I lent him some grace — and offered him a bottle of water. And although I was frustrated, for the first time an incident with the cable company did not unravel me, and I had no regrets about my behavior.
As Vic walked out to his truck, he thanked me for the water and mumbled that he was sorry that it took so long to get to my house. It had been “one of those days” and he still had another appointment to go.
I knew what it felt like to have a bad day. I had them all the time…I had children. But even though Victor and I were very different, I could see me in him, and him in me. We all feel the same things, we all feel that we’re not good enough, frustrated and crabby. It’s how we handle it that makes a difference.
Providing this man compassion — whether it was deserved or not — was good for the both of us.
We shouldn’t save our compassion solely for those who look like they are suffering the most. Instead, we should try practicing compassion to everyone –even those that get under our skin every. single. day. These small moments are the ones we have the power to change. These are the acts that can change the world.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” — Mother Teresa.
Or at least your experience with the cable guy.
I am very grateful to all of the Bloggers participating in the Movement #1000Speak. This campaign was sparked after a few truly horrific events occurred, mainly against children. One blogger wrote a piece that reminded us of the phrase “it takes a village.” But where was the village for these kids? Where is the village now? We cannot rely on anyone else to watch over those suffering. We need to instead “be the village.” That’s where you come in.
By promoting compassion — everywhere — we can change the world. My post today takes a soft approach to a heavy topic, but that does not mean I take it lightly. We need more compassion in this world, and we need it now.
You can find the links to all the bloggers that have participated right here. Please share the stories that move you, so we can change the world.
If you want to know more about this Movement please visit the Facebook Page here.