Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action

 

I am inspired by all the bloggers who posted in support of compassion. It was fascinating to see the different ideas, anecdotes, and topics people wrote about. ThoughtBubble

My #1000speak post, about an experience I had a year ago, reminded me how many times I’ve brought my children to homeless shelters, safehouses, schools, and libraries to donate clothing, toiletries, and books. What, if anything, had they learned from this?

I decided to ask them what compassion meant.

Neither one of them could answer me. They shifted in their seats and looked at the wall and floor with their I-don’t-know-the-answer faces.

Gah! Really? “Think about it.”

My 10-yr-old said, “Uh…love?”

My 8-yr-old said, “Friendship. I think it’s how you feel about a friend.”

Hmm.

I asked them for an example of something compassionate.

My 10-yr-old said, “Helping someone with a math problem if they can’t do it.”

My 8-yr-old answered, “Giving someone a stuffed animal if they’re sick so they feel better.”

They started sharing ideas: donating to homeless shelters, hugging someone if they’re sad, bringing an animal to the vet if it’s hurt…

Both my kids struggled to define the word compassion, but they know how to be compassionate people.

 

Rainbow

You don’t need to be able to define compassion to be compassionate.

 

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

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1000 Voices for Compassion

 

Mike greeted me in the parking lot of the homeless shelter. He shook my hand and thanked me for bringing supplies. “If you don’t mind me asking, who was in our house here?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Who stayed here? Your father? Brother?”

“Um…”

“It’s okay,” he smiled, “I was just curious.”

“No, it’s fine. I don’t know anyone who stayed here.”

“Oh.”

We started walking to my car. I’d been donating to other shelters for years but this was my first time at this house and I was thrown off by Mike’s questions. “Am I supposed to have a connection or contact or something? I didn’t know.”

He stopped. “You don’t know anyone who stayed here?”

“I really don’t.” My mom and 7-yr-old were in the car and I glanced toward the overloaded trunk and backseat. “I called ahead…I’m sorry.”

“We don’t,” Mike cleared his throat. “People usually give to the women and children’s houses. The men’s shelter doesn’t get many donations.”

“Well that’s…terrible. I mean it’s good that the other… We donate to shelters and safehouses, too. My mom made cute blankets for the kids…”

I was looking back and forth between Mike and the car, knowing my mother was going to wonder why I was standing in the freezing cold having a visibly uncomfortable conversation.

“May I?” He motioned toward the car.

“Yes. Sure.”

When we reached the car, Mike knocked on my mother’s window. She rolled it down, staring over his shoulder at me. I shrugged.

He introduced himself to her. He told her that she had done a beautiful job raising her children. He thanked my son for coming and asked if he could shake his hand. My son beamed.

“Okay,” Mike straightened up, “what can I help bring in?”

“Oh, um, everything in the trunk,” I picked up some bags of men’s hats, gloves, and scarves while he grabbed a few bags full of clothing. We continued carrying toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap, leaving them in front of the building, while I wrapped my brain around this exchange.

He unlocked the door and dumped the contents of the bags on a long table then spread everything out. “This way, the guys can take what they need when they come in,” he explained.

He picked up some sweatshirts and fleeces, “These are really nice.” He looked at me. “They’re new?” It wasn’t a question, really. The tags were on them and there were a lot of the same size, same color.

“Yes.”

His eyes filled up. He was quiet for a minute. He told me about how many of the men there were veterans. How many men had diabetes and couldn’t get help for it. Then he told me his story.

One about being here—not as staff director, but as a man who needed this place to survive.

“We get donations from men who used to stay here,” he continued, “or wives and kids of those men.” Then he asked me something that, at the time, I couldn’t answer. “Why are you doing this?”

I responded with a ridiculous, “I don’t know” followed up by “I just wanted to help”.

“Well, thank you. Thank you.”

We walked back out to the parking lot in silence.

As I got into the car, my son said, “He was nice. I’m glad we brought those things here.”

I cried.

 

This is what Google has to say about compassion:

com·pas·sion

noun: compassion

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

I disagree. I don’t believe pity has a part in compassion. Concern, yes. Sympathy, yes. Not pity.

Compassion is an emotion that gives one the ability to empathize with another’s situation without having actually been there. Wanting to help someone though you might not be able to relate to what they are going through, is compassion. The proverbial putting yourself in someone else’s shoes creates concern, empathy, sympathy—things that help you understand the pain of another person. Put those shoes on. Walk awhile.

 

Path of Compassion

 

“Bloggers from all over the world are coming together to talk about compassion, in one epic event on February 20, 2015.” Read about #1000 Speak for Compassion. The birth of the project was here at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion by Yvonne Spence. I am honored to be among the thousands of voices blogging for compassion today.

 

1000speak

 

 

Sugar Mountains

 

Yesterday, I got a text at 8 AM.

It said:

Do you remember making me a sugar mountain in college for my twentieth birthday? Doesn’t seem that long ago.

To which I responded:

Oh my gosh! I forgot about that!

I didn’t. I loved it. It’s a very clear memory.

I can’t believe your baby will be twenty today.

I know. I’m going to make him a sugar mountain.

This is making me cry.

Weird what things in life end up special memories. A paper cone with sugar packets stuck on it is forever in my memory and now (maybe) his. See what you did? You started a tradition. I’ll never forget that. Thank you.

I did, indeed, tape a piece of paper together to make a cone and staple sugar packets on it. Why? Because you can’t be twenty on sugar mountain. (Also, we loved Neil Young.) My best friend was leaving sugar mountain and I wasn’t. I wanted her to have a place she could return to if she wanted. That sculpture stayed up in our dorm room like a trophy for months.

I also unintentionally started a tradition. Yesterday, twenty-three years later, she made a sugar mountain for her son.

It isn’t always the big things (weddings, funerals, et al.) that make memories. You never know what will stay with someone, what will become a cherished memory. Sometimes it’s the smallest acts, the simple stapling of sugar packets to a paper cone.

Her last text message said:

Your boys are still there. I’ll remember to send them sugar mountains.

 

My random thoughts in 200 words or less.
(Excluding the texts—which I’m not counting. Yes, I’m cheating.)

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

 

“The most important thing is to always be true to what we like.”

Author J.D. Estrada said this to me. We were chatting on Twitter about book genres and reading whatever you want regardless of what others say. This statement stuck with me for two reasons.ThoughtBubble

  1. It can be applied to many situations.
  1. Most of the time you see a quote beginning with “We should always be true to…”, you expect it to end with “who we are”. But he said “what we like”. I find that interesting.

Being true to yourself is crucial and something we tell our children to do. But how often do we ask them what they like and if they stay true to that? I understand this could be considered part of being true to who you are but the words are not the same. They’re more specific and have an entirely different focus.

“Be true to who you are” is a bit abstract for children. Asking them what they like gets you an answer. Asking them if they care what other people think of those things gets you an answer. This leads to a conversation—a way to engage them in a discussion of being true to who they are using concrete examples of what they like.

 

Be True to What You Like

Both my boys (8 and 10 years old) still love their picture books.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Mother of the Year Award Goes To…

 

I’ve been tagged by Irene Waters to tell some secrets. I don’t gossip so these will be about me. And since I’ve already written a things-you-don’t-know-about-me post last year, I’m going to make this a confessions post. Because people love to read confessions. They do.

So, as mother of the year, I’ll start with the fact that I have never baked cookies with my children. In fact, I have never baked anything with them. My poor little boys. I’ve never let them roll dough with that neat wooden rolling thingy with the handles on the side or squish dough with their hands. Do I think they’ll make a mess? Is my OCD acting up imagining flour on the floor and egg yolks on the counter? Um. Maybe. The point is, I’ve never baked anything that wasn’t from an Easy-Bake Oven.

Since we’re on food and kitchens and stoves and stuff, I’ll let you all know another secret that helped me win this prestigious award: I don’t cook meals for my children. My children do eat and I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen but I’m usually cleaning, not cooking. It would be more accurate to say that I prepare meals. You know, washing fruit, cutting fruit, opening jars of peanut butter, containers of yogurt, and boxes of graham crackers, making sandwiches, microwaving, that sort of thing. I have no excuse. Well, I have lots of excuses but I won’t bore you with them. You’re welcome. I will say that I cooked more for my cat (he loved salmon and rice the best) than I have for my kids.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Let’s scoot out of the kitchen and head over to the living room where my family loves playing games—board games, cards, dice, whatever. After a game, I trick my kids into counting my points claiming it’s a “teaching moment”. In reality, at six and eight years old, my kids counted faster (and more accurately) than I did. Sometimes I won, though, so there’s that.

Speaking of winning… Actually this has nothing to do with winning. It’s about sharing. I have sharing issues. I like books. I love books. My books. My precious… And I read a lot of MG and YA novels so, sometimes, my children ask to *gulp* borrow my books. I don’t let my children read my books. My younger son could read a book three times and it would look like we just bought it so I’m a little more likely to let him borrow. My older son will take a beautiful copy of Harry Potter and return it with torn pages, the spine broken in seven places, and goodness-knows-what (I don’t want to know) smeared on the front cover. The back cover may or may not still be there. If it’s a special book, one that belonged to my grandmother or that I wrote a message in for them as babies, I make them lend the book from the library—the exact one that is already right here in my hot little hands.

Moving on to the last, but certainly not least, secret that I believe put me over the top. I can’t stand the sound of my children laughing. After a day of bickering, complaining, whining, and arguing, I’m done. Also, my boys are fond of making random noises for some reason. Just…noises. All. Day. Long. Around four in the afternoon, I’m ready for some giant, fluffy earmuffs. Then it is dinner and bedtime. At this point, giggles, guffaws, and laughter simply sound like more noise. And for some reason, kids feel the need to laugh loudly. Just more noise to add to the echoes of all the other noise bouncing around my skull and making me want to run screaming (very quietly) from the house.

And those are five reasons I won this award. That I gave to myself. Now. I will mention five other people here who will, if you’re lucky, spill some secrets of their own. But, whether they do or not, you should check them out. Because they’re awesome.

To the five marvelous bloggy people I am tagging: time to tell some secrets. Or not. I am giving you a compliment, not the flu.

 

Georgia Bell

Author of Unbound, the first book in her YA trilogy All Good Things. Amazing flasher (writer of amazing flash fiction—because flashing might be chilly in Canada). Wine-drinker. Scotch-drinker. Chocolate-eater. Doppelgänger with a damn good sense of humor. Or is it humour?

Robin Flanigan

Author, blogger, award-winning freelance writer. Yoga-loving inspiration. (I know you cringed at my aforementioned eating habits but do remember I’m with you on the meditation, yoga, balance, mindfulness. I am but a young grasshopper. Old-ish grasshopper.)

Amy Good

Author of Rooted. Creator of Friday Phrases (microfiction on Twitter), Story Bandit (writing dares), co-creator of Rewriting MarySue, how-does-she-do-it-all beauteous red-haired remarkable woman.

Sherri Matthews

Blogger, memoirist, poet, photographer, robin-inspired lover-of-life and one of the loveliest ladies you eva shall meet. Truly.

Loni Townsend

Author of Thanmir War and newly-released fantasy This World Bites, the first book in her Cera Chronicles series.
Funny, witty, wonderful gal. Loni is made of awesome. That is all.

 

Midwinter: Light & Hope

 

In many cultures, past and present, this day is a promise of release from the dreary darkness and bitter cold of winter. Beneath the frozen earth, life stirs. This midwinter celebration, halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring, gives us hope.

Like watching your children grow, you look up one morning and say, “When did you get so tall?” Those extra minutes of sunlight each day since the Winter Solstice have accumulated. Lift your eyes, look around, become aware of the light. The lengthening of days is a slow process—but the change is now noticeable.

The guilt of what we did “wrong” last year and the pressure to make resolutions to better ourselves is associated with the New Year.

This first day of February offers a fresh start. It is about new beginnings. It brings knowledge that the seeds we planted are deep within—there is life underneath the frost and snow. These plants will soon break through the soil, reaching and growing.

Trust that there is life in the darkness and there you will find hope.

 

Midwinter Sun & Ice Branches

Where there is darkness, find the light. Where there is cold, find the warmth.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.