Friday Essay – Reflecting on Compassion

Every now and then I connect with another human being.  Sometimes it’s deep and long-lasting, like with family and close friends.  Sometimes it’s fleeting – a short relationship.  Sometimes it’s shallow – an acquaintance at work.  Some connections are fleeting and shallow.  Some connections are fleeting and deep.  These are surprising connections.  They are the connections I make when my heart is open.  These are the connections I make when I am open to listening, open to being compassionate, open to being with someone and not judging.
The other evening, when I was in Vancouver, a fellow asked me for money.  There are a lot of folks in Vancouver living on the street.  There are plenty of folks in my hometown who are homeless as well. Sometimes I drop a dollar, sometimes two, in a hat or a cup.  I wish the person well.  Sometimes I walk by, embarrassed that I’m carrying a five-dollar coffee, but don’t have any coins in my wallet.  Sometimes I walk by because the person is dirty or smelly or saying weird things or holding a sign that describes their life circumstances and I am not moved.  I admit it. I am human.  Sometimes I am afraid of meeting the eyes of those folks on the street.  Sometimes the circumstances described on their signs make me want to march them down to the social assistance office and say, “We have help for you in this province.  You don’t have to beg on the street.”  And, I know it isn’t always that easy.  I’m not so naive – a little naive perhaps, it keeps my soul from shrivelling up completely.  And then, sometimes I allow a sweet street busker to pull my heart strings.  He seemed genuine.  An alcoholic singer from Scotland who did a lovely rendition of ‘Dirty Old Town’ for enough money to buy beer.  We walked together for a bit.  He told me a story that was probably true.  When we got where I was going we hugged and I wished him luck.  I meant it.  I truly hope he can get sober and see his daughter again.  Until then, I hope his life isn’t too tough.  Who am I to judge?  We are all, as I heard recently, spiritual beings on human journeys.  I was glad to walk with him on his journey even for only a few minutes.




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