Story Time: How Generosity Protects Compassion

Summer of 2008, I just graduated out of High School and began looking for a job in the big city (Manhattan).  Since I lived in Staten Island at the time, I had to purposefully take a bus and a ferry to cross over to the more famous island of Manhattan, NY.  Outside of the hustle and bustle that came with the commute, there was a more peculiar thing that sparked my attention.

Homelessness.

Commuting from one section of the city to the next, I heard from not only one homeless person, but several.  Passing from train cart to train cart they would share their story in hopes that someone would have compassion enough to spare some change.  From the gentleman that fought for our country to the single woman with a child, the stories would not end.  With each story, my heart broke and I offered whatever change I had.

Even more shocking- as I looked around at the crowd as each person spoke, they all stared forward blatantly ignoring what I thought to be a compelling story. For a while, I could not understand how this could happen.  A train cart full of people and I thought:

  • Did anyone have compassion to at least listen?
  • Did anyone care?

It was as if there was an invisible wall built between “us” and “them.”

After landing a job in the city and routinely commuting on the metro, I too, built a wall… and understood.

I understood the overwhelming questions in the heart, like how can you help every one?

Or, questioning the good will of people who give multiple stories; one contrary from the last.

Or, when you find out the person only acted “homeless.”

I have been on both sides of the spectrum: having full compassion to full on skeptical.

But, let me tell you, there is something that gets rooted in turning a blind eye in the name of skepticism… And it is your compassion.

  • Your ability to turn on the news, watch other people suffer and cry out because you also suffer.
  • The ability to listen and hear the details when people speak (the tones and the emotion in their voices).
  • Your will to fight for things that really, truly matter to you.

When you build invisible walls of “us” and “them” you create a world of “I can do it all by myself”… and “for myself.”  And this is so far from the truth!  Even though you may have a job, roof over your head, and food on the table, someone:

  • Sacrificed hours upon hours to build the company you work for.
  • Laid and built the foundation of the home you lay your head to rest.
  • Grew the crops and labored for the food you grocery shopped.

The world expands just a little bigger, when you lay down the skepticism and alternative motive, and simple give because we all need a hand every once in a while.   So I encourage you to keep your hand extended and as Dolly Parton would say “put a little love in your heart.”

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