What’s the Price of Compassion?

How much time and effort does it take to show another person some compassion? To show someone you care or that you’re thinking about them. 

Does it cost you anything?  What’s the price of compassion? 

For the past six years I’ve been trying to perfect my route to work. 

For the past six years I’ve been searching for the path of least resistance.

It usually takes me about twenty-five minutes door to door to get to work in the morning, or that’s what I say anyway. It’s more like a half hour, but the twists and turns have become second nature to me. 

I jokingly tell my students most days that I feel like Jason Bourne driving to work. 

The route might be always the same, but there’s always something that catches my eye. 

From Main Street, up Highfield, to St. George and left on Archibald Street. 

If I’m lucky with the lights that portion of my commute takes three minutes. 

On Monday morning, I saw something that almost stopped me in my tracks. 

If I would have had the old Saturn, I no doubt would have stopped. 

I did a double take as I saw a young man probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s walking down St. George with two garbage bags over each shoulder in sock feet. 

You see if I still had the Saturn I would have stopped because I always carried an extra few pairs of shoes. 

I made a promise to myself and my dad that I would keep my new car cleaner. 

As I stopped at the corner of Mountain Rd and Archibald, I couldn’t get the image of that man walking down St George out of my mind. 

We have been covering a Unit on self-concept in Personal Development Career Planning class where I shared the following passage with my students. 

It’s about five or six years old now, but the message is still important and perhaps even more important these days. 

Here’s the passage. 

NYC executive gives panhandler a lot of credit 

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A New York City ad executive says she never doubted a homeless man would return the credit card she loaned him in lieu of change. Merrie Harris says she didn’t have any cash when Jay Valentine asked for some Monday, so she let him use her American Express platinum card instead.

Friends and bystanders told her she’d never see it again. But Valentine soon returned it after buying deodorant, body wash, cigarettes and water for a total of $25. Valentine says he was surprised to be handed the card but never considered taking advantage of Harris’ generosity.

He says he lost his real-estate company job a few years ago. An Internet cafe in SoHo has been letting him sleep there. That’s where he ran into Harris.

After reading the passage I talked about my walk to the Avenir Centre the first season it opened. 

I talked about what Main Street was like when I grew up, that I couldn’t believe that homelessness was becoming a massive issue for our city and all the across the Maritimes. 

I didn’t want to read my article that wrote two years ago to the class, but I chose to tell them the story Mark and Craig Kielburger so graciously tell about their mother breaking a $20 dollar bill every time they went into downtown Toronto to catch a movie or show. Their mother would stop and give a “twoonie” to every homeless person on their way. 

They would always say, “come on Mom, let’s go, we have to go now.” 

She would take the time to ask them their name, to see how they were doing. 

When they finally asked their mother why she felt so compelled to stop, she told them, 

“we have to acknowledge their existence.” 

I will never forget that story. 

That was my message to my classes the last two days.

We need to always acknowledge people’s existence, we should try to lift people up, we should try to show them compassion. 

Our words and actions have tremendous power, both positively and negatively. 

I realize that we all have to wear masks and it’s hard or next to impossible to share a smile these days, but we can still say hello, check in with people, be kind and show compassion. 

I guess we are all quick to hide behind our masks from time to time, but we really should make a concerted effort to always be kind to others. 

Near the end of our discussion we discussed the New York City panhandler and his purchases. 

Three out of the four purchases he made were necessity or necessity in his mind, because he still had pride in himself. He never thought of taking advantage of Harris’ generosity. 

I ended our discussion with a personal story and few extra thoughts. 

About two or three years ago after a rough day at work, I came home to my wife telling our oldest that she was emptying her sister’s bucket. 

As the kids in my class cracked a smile, I told them it might sound cheesy or elementary school stuff, but just imagine if everyone showed more compassion for others by filling their buckets instead of emptying them. 

Imagine the impact that filling other people’s buckets would have here at school, in our separate communities and in our city. 

My closing thought to the class was that we all need to acknowledge people’s existence, and if they could imagine being a kid that came to school every day that no one talked to or said hello to. 

Five separate classes, breaks and lunch without anyone talking with them, checking in with them or acknowledging their existence. 

What’s the cost of compassion? 

Whether it’s on the drive to work, in the hallway, outside on duty, in the classroom, on the side walk, in the office or on the job site, we should all show compassion and kindness, who knows how far that will go in helping everyone’s self-concept and self-worth. 

How much time and effort does it take to show another human being some compassion? 

How much time and effort does it take show someone you care or that you’re thinking about them? 

What’s the cost of compassion? 

I’ve been looking for the young man I saw on St. George Street for the past few days sadly, I haven’t seen him, but I do have a pair of shoes for him in my trunk. 

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