“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
It’s a pretty scary world we live in these days. This month alone we’ve seen attacks on police officers in the United States. We’ve seen unspeakable acts of terror in Germany, France and Turkey. This week a priest had his throat slit by terrorists at a church in France. And the other day in Japan a man wielding a knife killed and injured several disabled individuals because he felt they were not fit to serve in society.
We live in a world with both bad and good. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.” But when we are overwhelmed with all the bad, it’s hard to see the good. It’s hard but more necessary than ever before for all of us to remember that despite all the terror in this world, there will always be more good than evil. Evil will never prevail because good will always be stronger.
I once read an interesting post which said evil and suffering is actually a necessary part of God’s design. The writer’s point was if everything was perfect in this world, we would not learn the true meaning of such virtues as forgiveness, courage, kindness, justice, mercy, remorse, generosity and self-sacrifice.
True. But I would add one other thing to the list and that is compassion. I’ve read many differing definitions for compassion. Some state that it literally means “to suffer together” while others claim it means the ability to understand the emotional state of another person and having sympathy for the misfortunes of others. All are correct. However, the most important part of compassion in my opinion is that it involves the willingness or desire to help others and alleviate their suffering in any way possible.
I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy. On April 12 of this year, I underwent surgery to my right foot and Achilles tendon area. For several months, my leg had become increasingly spastic and painful. I was told that my Achilles tendon had begun to fray pretty much like an old rope and I was also shown that I had a huge bone growth.
Removing the bone growth would require extensive surgery and a serious recovery so instead I found a doctor who is known for a procedure he pioneered known as SPML (Selective Percutaneous Myofascial Lengthening). In addition to lengthening my tendon, several holes were drilled into my bone growth in order to increase blood flow to the area.
Truthfully, I was not prepared for the extent of my recovery. I am now suffering from nerve damage and cannot feel part of my foot and leg. Hopefully, the feeling will come back sooner than later. I am currently going for physical therapy and have pretty much had to learn how to walk again. According to my physical therapist, a wonderful-caring man named Dean, my muscles are not working properly so I have to pay attention to every step I take so that my brain makes the connection. I can hear his voice now, “Heel, step, back…heel, step, back.” Has it been tough? Yes, absolutely. But one of the things that has truly helped me through this ordeal is the compassion I’ve been shown not only by my family and friends but also by complete strangers.
Complete strangers have let me lean on them as I walked through parking lots to my car or have offered to put my bags in the car for me at the supermarket. Friends have left food and goodies at my door anonymously and have sent flowers and cards to brighten my day.
There was one older woman that I remember most of all. For some reason, walking on the hard floors at my local Shoprite would cause me a lot of pain and with that pain came more limping than usual. On this particular day, I could barely make it out of the store. I only had a handful of items to buy so I didn’t bother getting a shopping cart. This was a mistake as I didn’t have anything to lean on.
As I made my way slowly out of the store, a woman came up to me and asked if I was OK. “You look like you’re in pain,” she told me. To this, I replied that I had recently had surgery on my leg and would be fine.
“Oh,” she replied, I can see the pain on your face.” Then she reached forward and took the two bags from arms. At first I tried to refuse her help but she was insistent. So finally, I smiled gratefully and led this beautiful soul to my truck.
When we reached my vehicle, she put my two bags in the back and reached forward to give me a much-needed hug. I was all teary-eyed as I thanked her for her kindness. “God bless you,” she told me. “We all have crosses to bear but everything will be alright.”
I stood there as she walked away shocked by her words and her compassion. As I got in the truck, the tears flowed. Unbeknownst to her, I had been feeling so sorry for myself and her words and encouragement gave me a much-needed boost.
Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t even ask for her name. But what I do know is that her compassion will forever stay with me. Her kindheartedness will forever remind me that despite the immoral things that may be happening in this world, the good will always outnumber the bad. It is this good that we all need to focus on. As the Bible states, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 ESV)