We are taught that compassion means paying attention to the people around us, reaching out to someone less fortunate or less able. Showing compassion means seeing someone else’s need and doing something yourself to meet it. |Click to Tweet|
It could be stopping to help an elderly woman at the grocery store who needs a hand with a case of bottled water. Or jumping up to get the door for a stranger who is overloaded with bags or children. Compassion requires us to notice others, get out of our comfort zones and get involved. And in a culture where we are so often plugged in and tuned out, it takes a conscious effort to show compassion. But there are opportunities all around us. It could be slipping the customer service clerk a “mean people suck” note after watching her patiently deal with the crazy lady making a scene in front of you. And it could mean looking a homeless man in the eyes as you give him some cash because he needs respect as much as he needs a meal.
And yet sometimes compassion means looking the other way…
Sometimes the most effective way to restore dignity to someone in need is to notice their plight, and look the other way. Demonstrating compassion can mean giving people margins to be imperfect, unable, or mistaken. |Click to Tweet| We’ve all experienced moments where we were overloaded and underprepared—moments where we would prefer to be invisible when all eyes seem to suddenly be on us.
Like when we hear a baby scream-crying in the grocery store. I remember those days…how flush my face would become and how desperately I wanted to just abandon my cart in the cereal aisle and run. (And most times, I envisioned taking my screaming baby with me.) Mommas with crying babies need compassion, not criticism.
When I see a toddler flinging food in the floor in a nice restaurant, I remember how wonderful it felt to have dinner out and not have to clean up afterward. When I see a mother at her wit’s end because her child is having a full-on melt-down in the parking lot, I remember the same sleep-deprived-reading-all-the-right-books-painting-my-white-picket-fence-feeling. Sometimes compassion means looking the other way while a parent struggles to do the best thing for their child, not the book they read or the approval of on-lookers.
And sometimes compassion takes you ahead…not to a memory of where you’ve been, but to a glimpse of where you are going. It can give you an insight into how you would like to be treated, or how you would like a stranger to treat someone you love. And that’s where compassion took me this week.
I ran up on an old man driving 40mph on the freeway. And though he was clearly a safety hazard to himself and others, I thought to myself, this gentleman is somebody’s grandfather. So, I didn’t cuss him or impatiently swerve around him. Instead I blessed him as I passed by because I thought that could be my grandaddy. And God in heaven, I’d love to see him again.
My grandaddy used to tell me about “this ol’ mean, cruel world,” as he called it. And I would like to think that the remedy for that is simply compassion. And he taught me a thing or two about that, too.