I’ve been thinking about compassion lately. It sort of popped into my head from somewhere, a word with a variety of interpretations but in essence speaks to my giving a hoot about someone other than my own self, being interested in them, caring about their welfare as much as mine, and willing to do a little, if not go far out of my way to help.
Don’t know about you, but it seems when some new idea, or even a new object grabs my attention I start seeing it everywhere. For example a recent newspaper article about the Dalai Lama’s visit to the American Enterprise Institute, a “conservative think tank” as it was described, in Washington D.C. “as an honored guest of the enthusiastic capitalists” to introduce them to the idea of “moral markets.” Imagine that morality and capitalism together! And it seemed to go well, something about His presence seems to call forth reverence and not a small amount of laughter, an openness to listen, even if against ones normal inclination. He suggested we be wise-selfish instead of foolish-selfish, “that the more we help others, the more content we ourselves will be.” Helping others he said, makes us more content. A theme of the conference was whether we’d become too materialistic. Compassion showing up in places some aren’t used to seeing it. As someone who’s spent most of her working life in the world of commerce, it can seem like anomaly.
In another paper there was an inspiring article about a small group of businessmen saving the 74-year-old kosher Crown Market, an institution in the town of West Hartford, CT set to close for financial reasons. But when community heard of the owners’ plight they rallied, a campaign was started and with the help of three local business people it re-opened almost before it was set to close! I had to chuckle since these same guardian angels probably fall into that class of the super rich that the not-so-rich are waging war against these days.
“This is not an investment to make money,” … “This is an investment to make this ‘Jewish community food center’a place.”
The media, popular culture would have us think compassion has gone out of style, if it ever was in, especially in the western world where money, fame and personal aggrandizement is the standard, particularly in the U.S. Even our educational system is leaning more toward career success than developing well-rounded citizens.
But I started to think more about it the other day when another story showed up about a woman who’d been released from prison after more than three decades behind bars for a murder she didn’t commit. We’ve seen these stories a lot in recent years; we feel sorry about lost lives even as we feel helpless to do anything about it. What stood out for me in this case was the group in the Los Angeles area who made the woman’s release possible, The Post-Conviction Justice Project at USC’s law school. A group of lawyers, like many such groups around the country working tirelessly for years to achieve what seems like the impossible. Where would we be without those who’re willing to stick their necks out, make sacrifices? I started to think about the legions of un-heralded who spend so much of their lives often voluntarily, helping people they usually don’t even know.
Compassion then must be an inherent part of life when you consider the many millions who’ve chosen “helping” professions, or just plain volunteering to help others. Everyday care givers and fire fighters, Red Cross volunteers, rescue squads and people who jump into rivers to save a stranger. Not to mention the animal lovers saving abandoned pets in the community as well as at-risk animals in the wild. Most of us wouldn’t be where we are if someone hadn’t gone out of their way to help us through some trial. Yet it seems we’re still not doing enough given the number of people around the world in dire straits.
So here’s a little post in small tribute to all those, including ourselves who stop for a minute, or even a lifetime to pay attention to someone else.