Friday, February 20, 2015

Joining with 1000 Voices for Compassion: One Simple Way to Embody Compassion

I am so excited about the opportunity to join with other bloggers to write about compassion today!

For me, compassion begins as something intangible, a slippery thought that draws me beyond my normal mode of operating, and invites me to consider the creatures around me in a new, kinder, and more gentle way.

It is very important to me that those moments of compassion become embodied in some way.  Whether compassion takes the form of kind words to another, giving myself the time and space to relax in a bubble bath, or simply smiling with understanding at the father calming a crying baby in the grocery store, I want to be a living expression of compassion in the world.

Hubby and I moved from a suburb of Atlanta to a suburb of Chicago in 2008.  I had never seen homelessness in such stark, harsh reality before reaching Evanston, IL.  There were usually one or two men of various ages who waited outside my local Jewel-Osco to ask for food, money, basically anything others were willing and able to spare.  

I remember the first of many times I shared what I could spare with one particular gentleman.  I rarely carry cash on me, and so I had intended to get him something from my cash back option at the checkout line.  But, after my long trek through the store, I completely forgot.  I felt horribly.  So, I frantically dug about in my parcels, and pulled out several oranges.  His ability to ask and willingness to express genuine gratitude astonished me.  I remember him commenting on how helpful they would be fighting off sickness in the oncoming winter.

Through our years of graduate school, and early marriage, Hubby and I have been reliant on the compassion of family and friends more than once.  After surviving an apartment fire in which we lost everything, I clearly remember what it is to go to sleep in a foreign bed with nothing more to my name than the clothes on my back.  In the financially tight moments since that apartment fire, I am eternally grateful that I have never had to know the coldness of sleeping on concrete, the hunger of not knowing where my next meal is coming from, nor the harshness of untreated mental illness.

I'm writing about compassion and homelessness, because I believe that it is an invitation to move beyond our society's judgement that we ought to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps."  I believe that it isn't even about generosity.  It is about knowing what I can spare and what I cannot spare.  John the Baptist had a simple, yet practical, teaching about love: if you have two coats give one to someone who does not have a coat.  

I still rarely carry cash.  I'm a graduate student on a tight budget, and I would definitely give away more than we could afford if I carried cash in my pocket.  However, I saw a YouTube video HowTo about Backpacks for the Homeless, and I was inspired.  So, I carry little kits with me in the car so that when someone asks, I can offer what I do have to spare!

I keep one kit in the car at a time.  After I give one away, its time to make another.  Every kit is a little different based on what extras I have on hand when its time to make a new one. 

This kit Includes:

- Lotion, Shampoo, Conditioner, Bath & Face Soaps: from a recent hotel stay.

- Washcloth: purchased as a bundled pack of 10 from Target for $3.

- Toiletries Bag: purchased from the $1 Spot at Target.

- Paper and Pen: from a recent hotel stay.

- InTouch Magazine: encouraging reading material.

- Quaker Chewy Dipps: took a few from a box I bought for Hubby's lunches.

Total Out of Pocket Cost: ~$5

I give out of my home what I can spare for someone who does not have a home.  This is one way I embody the compassion I want and need to be more present in the world around me.  I hope that this contribution to the 1000 Voices for Compassion helps to inspire you to consider how compassion is a part of your every day life!

What does compassion mean to you?  How do you embody it in your life?  When are you most in need of compassion from others or from yourself?