1000 Voices Speak for Compassion

20 Feb

Today is the day that 1,000 bloggers join together to write about compassion. Compassion is the ability to sympathize with others less fortunate or more accurately to have sympathetic concern for their suffering. Compassion comes easy to me however feeling it and “practicing” it are entirely different.

Living in a beautifully small community is something that I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy each day, unfortunately with that tight knit closeness comes the heightened awareness of the “have-nots”.

1000 Voices for Compassion

Each Friday, I dutifully fill my oversized gas tank and trudge off to work, bemoaning the fact that I have to earn a dollar.  I often forget that my ability to work and earn income is a blessing that many are not privileged enough to have.  The “many” live in my community without homes, food and basic necessities.

I start to feel that tender tug on my heart as I’m waiting for the truck’s tank to overfill.  I allow my eyes to scan the parking lot and storefront and immediately realize what I’m looking for.  Sitting near the ice chest, on a 25 degree day, is a homeless woman.  Our eyes catch each other and I smile, as I do every week.  She looks back, without a smile, and rubs her gloved hands together.

I’m ecstatic that she’s wearing a heavy coat with gloves and holding a coffee.  Thankfully, somebody other than me, has already helped her.  I go back to filling my tank and barely notice that most of the patrons ignore her.

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Fifty dollars later, I hop into my warm truck and prepare to leave.  Why is this woman still on my mind? Then it hits me.  She is huddled outside on the cold concrete on the coldest day in Florida’s history at only 730am.  Or at least from what I recall it’s the coldest.

I pull my truck into the open parking space and go over to her.  We exchange simple pleasantries and she tells me that she was lucky enough to sleep in the shelter last night but that they put her out at six each morning.  My heart breaks and then swells thinking that at least she was warm last night.

She tells me that she isn’t hungry right now but I couldn’t leave.  I invite her into the store to pick up food for later.  We joke about how it’s so cold that the food will keep fresh.  She’s reluctant to enter the store claiming the workers will call the “law” on her.  I tell her not to worry.

I let her know that she can get whatever she wants.  She gingerly picks up this tiny sandwich and a coffee. How can someone with nothing not want to splurge?  Perhaps she was showing me compassion by not spending a lot.  I explain that I want her to take some things for later but she says that she’ll wait outside.  Don’t these store workers have sympathy for a woman freezing and hungry on their front steps?

I fill up my arms with sandwiches, chips and some sweet donuts.  No one says a word to me in line or when paying; I’m just another person to hand them money.  Surely they saw me with her and want to comment.  Nope.

I slowly walk outside and realize that I’d love to hear her story, get to know her, protect her and help.  Show a little concern for her obvious plight.  Instead, I ask her name and let her know mine.  I mention how the church next door serves dinner each night; yes, she knew that.

I touch her arm, tell her to keep warm and say goodbye.  She has the most beautiful blue eyes amidst all of those hardened wrinkles.  She is someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s mother or sister.  How did this happen?   

What does compassion mean to you?

This article was written in support of the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion campaign.
You can find more information here, or by following #1000Speak on Twitter and Facebook. 

Hovering high and low, Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad

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