Since it is the season for goodwill towards men, (women and children I should like to add), thought I’d take a moment to talk about compassion.
Generally, I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place if people practiced more compassion.
(You’ll note, I did not say, “had more”, as I do not think compassion is an inborn quality, but a skill that one gets better at, like patience, or if you’re lucky, charisma.)
Here’s the thing:
I’m not speaking of compassion in the way we, as a culture, have come to think of it. I’m not talking about grand, world spanning, Christ/ Buddha-like, feeding starving children overseas, give up all your worldly goods, compassion.
I think that standard is too high, and just looking up at it gives people nose bleeds and makes them feel like they can never reach it.
What I’m talking about is simple, everyday compassion, for yourself, and for the people immediately around you.
(Let me add that compassion does not mean indulgence.)
Here’s an example:
A few weeks ago, I’m driving home from classes. I shift over to the presently empty deceleration lane for my exit. Plenty of room. No cars for more than a hundred yards either in front or behind me. And I do what one does in a deceleration lane, I begin to decelerate. A note here; I drive a small, 1989 4 cylinder foreign pick-up. It’s what I can afford and it gets better mileage than my last vehicle, but it doesn’t accelerate particularly quickly, and when going uphill, not at all. If you see my truck, the first thing that comes to your mind will probably be, “Well that’s a piece of shit”. And that’s fine with me because no one thinks to break into a piece of shit and I don’t have any payments.
So, here I am, decelerating, and in the rear-view mirror, I suddenly see a pick-up truck, three times the size of mine, barreling up behind me at an inconsiderate rate of speed.
(I generally follow the speed limit, not because I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but because my truck just doesn’t have the power to go fast, even downhill.)
And this asshat, in his huge truck begins riding my ass, all the way down the exit lane, never-mind that there is a completely empty lane beside me he could be in if he wanted to get around me.
This would have been an excellent opportunity for this wriggling sack of dicks to exercise the compassion I’m talking about.
Hell, if you see a piece of shit truck like mine, as opposed to engaging in some infantile display of status seeking/ bully behavior, take the opportunity to think,
“It’s bad enough he has to drive that piece of shit. Maybe I should slow down and not make him think I’m trying to run him off the road?”
That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about; simple, kind, considerate.
I think the world would be a better place if we did that more, if we tried to live up to that simple standard as opposed to thinking compassion has to be some grand, world encompassing gesture or thought. Start small. All things in the universe do. If you get good at the small things, bigger things will become easier.
Here’s a brief, and in no way comprehensive list of small ways to practice compassion:
– When driving, use your turn signal.
– Hold a door open for someone.
– Thank someone for holding the door open for you.
– Don’t stop your vehicle on top of the crosswalk.
– Don’t pull into the intersection when you know you’re going to be stuck there through the light.
– Don’t mistreat retail workers or food servers.
– Ask people questions about their day and be genuinely interested in their answers.
– Give a panhandler the loose change in your pocket,
(face it, most of us are just going to lose it in the couch or the washing machine anyways.)
– Listen to another human being as if what they are saying is the only thing you have to do for the time being.
– Let the old person get ahead of you in line at the grocery store,
(unless they have, like, 600 items, then to hell with that.)
– Take a moment to think before you speak.
(except when talking to yourself, because, fuck that guy.)
– When bad memories plague your nights or days, use it as an opportunity to practice letting it, whatever it is, go. It’s what your brain’s trying to do anyways.
– Figure out what’s bothering you and deal with it instead of taking out on someone else.
– Acknowledge the existence of the people around you, not just your family or friends. A little acknowledgement of human dignity goes a long way.
– Leave the house earlier, so you won’t be rushing.
(as rushing makes us inclined to see other people as obstacles instead of the fellow human beings they are.)
– Give yourself a break.
– Give other people the benefit of the doubt.
– Enjoy the simple fact that a good life does not mean you always have to be right about something.
– See your mistakes as learning experiences. Afford other people the same courtesy.
– Don’t take up more than one parking space, or park so close to the line that the next car can’t open the door.
– Don’t tell people you’ll “pray for them” unless you’re praying for their continued health, happiness, and future wealth.
(anything else is condescension and not compassion.)
Like I said, it’s not an exhaustive list. Feel free to come up with your own.
Little practices. Little things. They seem small, inconsequential even, but you’d be surprised the amount of difference it can make to another human being.
You’ll understand when something small like this makes a difference to you.
I hope it does.
I hope you do.
Until next time, when I will probably be ranting again, happy holidays, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year to you and yours.