Learning the power of compassion
We know the word and its meaning, but how often do any of us stop to think about the power of compassion? There was once a young woman named Poom, who was an immersion course in compassion for me. When my partner and I lived in Thailand, every day we’d go out for coffee at a modest little restaurant. Traveling and living abroad was not without its challenges. There were many. But, it was opening up worlds and experiences that were enriching and growing us greatly.
Arriving in Thailand was an eye-opener. Having grown up in Western culture and a middle class family, I had previously been insulated from poverty. Asia was my first experience with it being highly visible. It was right in my face, most of the time.
Unless it was her one day off per week, Poom served our coffee. She was a beautiful, young, and apparently intelligent woman, somewhere in her twenties. Day after day, I would pick up on Poom’s moods and rhythms. There was a quiet, yet dignified, air of hopelessness about her. I could tell she felt imprisoned where she was, and worse, she could see no way out. My mind burrowed around the circumstances of Poom’s life, and mine.
Being mindful of differences and feeling gratitude
I realized how much I had taken for granted the opportunities with which I had grown up. They had created a mindset of “anything is possible”. The world was wide open, if I wanted it badly enough and worked for it. On the other hand, Poom’s life circumstances had conditioned her mind to believe in very limited possibilities. She was likely never going to see firsthand the world I was born into. And yet there I was, drinking coffee in hers.
It is very sad for anyone to be in a situation that feels hopeless. And yet, these are the trials of the soul that force us to grow. We dig deeper to find a way out of the darkness, stretching towards the light. While we are doing that, it helps if someone reaches out a hand to show us the way.
Exercising more compassion in a troubled world
The world is in major flux right now. There are entire populations struggling with even meeting the necessary requirements of life – food, shelter, clothing. Venezuela is just one example. There has always been economic disparity in the world, but it is growing. In first world countries, there are individuals battling with their inner demons, products of a stressful society where those basics are usually attainable, but the pressure of acquiring them can break a person psychically. And society is building more walls to manage it, literally and figuratively. Our technologies, although they seemingly connect us, can also promote feelings of isolation in people.
Now more than ever, it behooves us to exercise the power of compassion. I believe that in the long run, the human race will not survive without it. We each need to find ways to heal the things that separate us from other human beings, and build on the connections that unite us. Compassion is an important tool to reach that goal.
The Power of Compassion © Susan L Hart 2019
Photo courtesy Namo Deet, Pexels