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?”


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

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


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.


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:


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.





22 thoughts on “1000 Voices for Compassion

  1. I laugh, I cringe, I shake my head. Your posts do all that to me and then you throw me a lump of gristle that sticks in my throat and I look at the dog and he knows. He bloody gets it too. I wish you could bottle the essence of that ‘I don’t know’ and spray it over the customers of any number of stores this weekend, just a splash of the tangy fragrance to make them start and think, ‘Why?’ and then ‘Why not?’

    Liked by 5 people

  2. That story knocked my socks off! *pulls up socks* I just found out today that Sandpoint has nothing for homeless women…nothing! You do get it, and you express it it well in your story that it’s evocative. It can stimulate the compassion gland!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Charli. Quite a few places don’t want shelters in their town. I’m surprised, though, that they do have other shelters, just not this one specific one.

      Here’s something interesting: only one of the places I donate to allows women clients (homeless women) because the others are safehouses and shelters for battered women and children. Like there aren’t any women who are homeless for other reasons. Ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah, I thank you because it is people like you who help people like my dad who has been homeless more than once. Everything Geoff and Charli say, I cannot add anymore. All that, I feel the very same. You talk the talk and walk the walk. You are my inspiration. Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I have to agree, this is a lovely story that sums up what it’s all about. I do identify with the discomfort at being thanked: I’ve had phone calls from charities to which I’ve donated money, not sure why I don’t like it, maybe because it connects me to the thought that yes, I’ve given something, but I could have given more.
    On the other hand, the man’s response at this shelter was lovely and answers a question that’s poised on Norah’s blog of why don’t we teach compassion to children? This is a beautiful demonstration of that teaching in action.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is uncomfortable. I’ll have to think about why that is. I do some of my donations anonymously because of that. Yes, his reaction to the donations was incredible. Obviously. It stuck with me this long. There’s more that I left out but you get the idea. It was a powerful experience. Your comment about teaching compassion to children makes me think of my Thought Bubble for today: Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action Teaching children compassion is crucial. Thanks so much, Anne.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action | Lemon Shark

  6. Pingback: I feel good! | Norah Colvin

  7. This is gorgeous, Sarah. It brought tears to my eyes and, as I was reading in public, that made me a little uncomfortable. But they were tears mostly of admiration for the generosity of your heart and actions, and also the feeling of not measuring up. You walk in big shoes and leave huge footprints. At least that way the path is easier to follow. We just have to follow in your steps.
    One thing I greatly admire is that you make your giving so personal. It is easy to click a button, tick a box or sign a cheque; but the action is removed from those in need. (That’s not to diminish the value of the actions to those in need.) Getting up close and personal as you do, and are teaching your children to do, requires somewhat more, perhaps a greater giving of the self, rather than just a donation to a worthy cause that barely interrupts or impacts on the rest of life.
    You know I’m not going to leave it here Sarah. I’m borrowing heavily from you in my next post. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know what happened to my comment! ??? This might result in two replies but…

      Thank you. ❤ I appreciate your words so very much. We do love to make giving personal (my boys make a list of what they think people will need, go shopping, pick things out, and bring them to the shelters). I love the entire experience. But we also do click a button now and then for places we wouldn't otherwise be able to help. These are our favorites:


      I love that my kids get to see beyond where they live (the comforts of our home but also our part of the world).

      Of course I don't mind. I'm touched that you used part of this to expand upon on your own blog. And you did such a beautiful job with it. I'm honored to be a part of that post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Sarah. I have read a similar comment before. Maybe you did it on my blog?
        What you do is a wonderful learning experience for your boys, and life changing for others. I love to share ‘feel good’ stories and examples for people to emulate. Thank you for your generosity. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: How to teach compassion – and why | Norah Colvin

  9. Pingback: Nurturing the Writer | Lemon Shark

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