I have appreciated reading what you all have written in response to the question of the week. As I have followed you on Facebook, I have identified more questions I see us wrestling with, as we struggle to understand the greatest obstacles to living out a compassionate life.
Here are a few additional questions: Will my compassion make a difference? Will the gift of my compassion be appreciated? Will giving the gift make life harder for me? If so, how much more difficult will my life be, as a result of giving this gift? Am I correct in my assumptions about how compassion should be shared with this person? Will my compassion make another too reliant upon the generosity of others? Will I be viewed by this person as trying to save them or rescue them?
Thinking about all of these questions causes me to recall one of the first times I ever remember living out of compassion. My family was in Washington D.C. We had just gone into a shoe store and my parents had purchased a brand new pair of neon pink Converse for me (Yes, this was supposed to be cool in the 80’s). As we walked out of the store and began our trek back to our hotel, I saw a man sitting on a blanket begging for money. I remember being confused because this wasn’t something I encountered in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The man obviously hadn’t showered for days; His face wasn’t cleanly shaven; He looked malnourished. As my family walked by him, I stared and read his cardboard sign asking for money. After we had passed the man, I tugged on my mother’s hand and asked for a couple of dollars. She looked at me for a moment, asked what the money was for, and then pulled out some cash when she heard my response. As soon as the money was in my hand, I ran back to the man to give him all the cash I had been given.
The day this happened none of the aforementioned questions went through my mind… and I am not sure whether this is a blessing or a curse. Either way, I would like to learn how to live more freely with what I have and become a more compassionate person.
Hmm, a shoe thread is emerging on the blogs this week. I must confess that the first Converse “Chucks” that I owned were likewise pink (salmon is what the stored called them) but it was because they were on clearance (no doubt BECAUSE they were “salmon”). I struggle all the time about the amount of my purchases. It could be simple frugality genetically inherited from my Scottish grandmother, coupled with the Calvinist guilt from the same source. Or it is, I hope, a matter of understanding the connection between my living simply so that others can simply live. Perhaps a lot of our compassion is expressed in our lifestyle as much as it is specific acts of kindness.
Ian, I like you remarks. And your salmon “Chucks” brought back a lesson of my own: My family had no extra money, so by the
time I was 12 I was responsible for my own clothes and shoes. I saved up my 25-cents per hour babysitting money for weeks and bought that “must have” Dr. Ben Casey blouse that was finally on sale in the Sears Roebuck catalogue. The day it arrived was the last day any of the “cool girls” in my class ever wore a Ben Casey blouse! I think it was my first lesson in the foolishness of fashion! Now I can thank God for it 🙂
In teaching a parenting class at one of my churches I used a book by a local author who called one of her chapters “The Luxury of being Poor.” The idea was that by the time you saved up your money to buy what you wanted…you didn’t want to spend the hard earned money on it and either then saved it or bought something different than you originally wanted. Not a bad lesson for kids…and me!