Compassion

/ posted in: ReadingReligion

“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure share your food with the hungry.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you never walk alone.
If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of each of your arms.”
Audrey Hepburn quoted in Field Notes on the Compassionate Life

One chapter that I was easily able to empathize with was about judging people on surface characteristics. The author starts with stories about judging people based on facial scarring and weight.

“Why was my first response not compassion, but instead a series of assessments that went off like a string of mental firecrackers before I even knew I’d lit the match?”

I’m guilty of this all the time. I’m bad about making judgements based on how people dress or speak. This injury experience has given me a chance to be on the other side for a bit. I’ve written before about how people treat me when I’m using the electric carts at stores. I’m not obviously injured so there is hostility rolling off some people when they see me rolling around the store in the cart. I was feeling sort of smug about this. They were going to get their karmic comeuppance for thinking I was just lazy. Then I scooted into an aisle when a very large woman in a cart was coming the other way. My automatic first thought was, “She needs the exercise. She should be walking.” That was a wake-up call. When I got closer to her and saw the junk food in her cart my critical mind started up again. “It is her fault that she’s like that.” As I passed her I could then see the bandages wrapping her leg from ankle to thigh. Sign me up for my comeuppance too.

I’m trying to be more mindful of this behavior. I’m trying to stop the voice in my head when it starts making comments about people and replacing it with something good about that person. It is hard work. The first two days I worked after starting this I had to deal with some horrid people. Maybe that was my payback. The universe lined up all the nasty people it could find to test my committment to being nice. It reminded me of advice I had heard to never pray for patience or you will be given many opportunities to practice it.

The last part of this chapter is about a week the author spent on the street learning what it was like to be homeless. He was with a group who learned to find safe places to sleep and eat. They also had to beg enough money to get their busfare home at the end of the week. The contempt of other people was the worst part of it for them. They wanted to tell these smug people that they were journalists or doctors or whatever. This was just a temporary thing for them. They wanted to be treated as humans again.

I used to serve meals at a homeless shelter a few times a year. The people we were serving were always so nice. They always had a nice thing to say to us and thanked us profusely for being there. I don’t know if we were as uplifting to them as they were to us. I’d like to have the opportunity to volunteer again but there are no shelters here. I’d have to drive to a city to do that. I’m thinking about finding a place to volunteer on days when I’m in the city. That’s the sneaky thing about this book. It makes you want to go out and do things for other people.