Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Compassion as a state of grace

A friend of mine posted about an incident the other night that brought to my mind the few people I know whose lives are lived by compassion for others. Heather teaches cooking classes, and the other night when she had a small class, an older man on a cane wandered in. They tried to welcome him and make him comfortable, but when she looked in his eyes she saw only blankness. There was no way to reach the man, the soul inside that body. It turned out the man’s daughter was shopping, and he wandered away from her. Heather said that blank expression brought tears to her eyes, and she could barely hold herself together to finish the class.

She’s like that. Right now, she’s collecting school supplies for a program called Communities in Schools which provides basic backpacks and supplies to needy children. She’s been known to take a homeless person under her wing, and she says one of the jobs that made her happiest was working in the kitchen of a homeless shelter. We talked about her outreach, and she said, “I see people and faces. A car could crash in front of your house, and I wouldn’t notice, but I see people.”

I have a firm faith that most people are kind, generous and caring, even though tensions in our country seem to have brought out the worst is many of our fellow citizens. But there are many more good people than angry, bitter, defensive, and un pleasant—or prejudiced. I see that daily as I shop and go to restaurants on my walker. People hold doors for me, ask if I need extra assistance, go out of their way to make sure I’m okay. Still people like Heather, for whom compassion is the ruling operative in their lives, are few and far between. They have my undying admiration. I think it’s a quality that is inborn, not learned, but I suspect we all can cultivate it. I’m trying.

Heather is also my cooking buddy. She’s line cook at one of the major museums in town, one with an elegant restaurant. She brought me lunch today—a wonderful green salad with blue cheese and figs, deviled eggs with a flip of smoked salmon on each, and a blueberry/strawberry scone. Delicious, and pretty, as you can see above. She confirmed my suspicions about how to use the mandolin I was given, taught me how to change temperature and time on my toaster oven, and suggested ways I could fix a couple of recipes I had trouble with. Plus, we had fun.


Victor Wadsworth said...

Maybe the man's problem was he didn't feel useful. Due to health, age, lack of involvement with others, people may find themselves in a situation where they no longer feel of value. I think that would really take the light out of someone's eyes.

Heather Hogan said...

You might very well be right, Victor. I don't know which is the harder pill to swallow- something we can't control like Alzheimer's or dementia-or the psychological damage that comes from the distress of age. Great insight!

Judy Alter said...

Heather, there you go again. Your compassion is showing.