Teaching Compassion

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Teaching children to respond to others in compassion is a valuable, crucial part of their education.  

My daughter and I went to The World of Anne Frank last night, which was a tribute to the 10th anniversary of our city's Anne Frank Memorial.  It was a very simple reading of her diary through the voices of "key" characters of that time and in Anne's life.  It was intertwined with video clips of two of Anne's friend's from her childhood, still alive today.  

What courage.  

What hope.  

What devastation.  

Are we educating our kids about the atrocities that have taken place in history--events and behavior that have taken lives and crushed spirits?  Have we helped them identify the behavior that led to the persecution of Jews, or any persecution for that matter?  Are we building in our children a character that believes in helping others, seeks to serve, and hopes for a better tomorrow? Let us not ignore history's past.  Let us seek the greater good for those around us. 

Anne Frank, just a teenager when she was enveloped in the horror of Nazi Germany, said this, 

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!” 

It is true, I believe, that we can change the world around us by simple actions, by a smile, by our outlook.  We can educate our kids by teaching them the good and bad found in history and in our present.  By teaching them to serve others around them.  By treating others with their best intentions.  By imparting this wisdom to our children and students. By teaching compassion.  

Elicia wrote an article a bit ago about serving others.  This is a critical education for our children.  This includes stepping in to help people while they are going through huge life changes or unexpected trials of their own: sicknesses, auto accidents, a new arrival, a marriage, a death....and it's just as important to be a help to those whose life is a daily trial: Holding doors for people, helping the elderly with their shopping carts, visiting the lonely, helping those who can't help themselves.  Allowing your children to get a glimpse into another's world, and realizing that it is different than their own.

I wrote this poem a few years back, when I returned from a wonderful trip to San Francisco with my husband, who was there for work.  This is based on a true event I witnessed, and I hope it shows you how the simple, kind actions we can do for others, can make a tremendous difference in the lives of others.  

     "My name is Carl, and I'll take you anywhere you want to go."  

I turn and see her--
hands bare from forward propelling chair on wheels, she
uses her one good leg to spin around and heave backwards through the crowd,
low voice calling out to passerby's--
                    "Watch out!  Comin' Through!"

Dark skin stark against hard life,
wearing white, stained tee.
And I see her wince under the weight of Market Street:
the sound of cable cars and tourists,
as she narrowly misses the 49ers paraphernalia taking up
valuable sidewalk space. 

And the crowd did all but part ways for her.
                    So still the struggle.

The hurried tourists skirt around her like they did the overturned 
     garbage can up the street.  
Some rush back to work after a quick lunch, 
     preoccupied with living.  
Others don't see--
     so much destitution becomes normal.

Still, a few just don't care.  Her business isn't their business.
Isn't my business.  
Pang in the heart.


Then he says it again:
                     "I'll take you anywhere you want to go." 

And the way he says it--it's like....like he means it.
I stare and see then that he does mean it. 
And he hasn't asked it as a question.

They shuffle a bit with his load.  
He asks if she minds holding his day. 
She holds his Italian leather briefcase and 
his open bottle of anchor steam 
against her stained pants, 
and bandage-wrapped leg; 
                    smiles grateful at the man who offers such mercy.

And his young voice calls out to her above the noise of 4th Street. 
She is being asked her name.
She is being asked about her day. 
Shiny patent shoes scrape against 80-grit and 
sounds like the melody of mercy and 
 she talks
                     --on and on and on. 

I can still hear her voice as they sail around the corner.


He: young, able, income-savvy.
She: old, unable, destitute.
Both: despite race, income, age, or even the proposed daily agenda--
                    joined for a moment; exchanging names.

 And for just a time, her hardship is gone and she feels like a person worth getting to know better. 
A Good Samaritan. For another, life laid down.

Carl walked a mile. 
A mile which wasn't his.
And he made it his business.