Much of the time we tend to think of compassion in terms of the extraordinary moments, events which seem removed from our daily perspective. The Dalai Lama’s story of a Tibetan monk’s compassion towards his Chinese jailers is one example. However, not long ago, I experienced a simple, yet powerful example of everyday compassion.
My neighbor, Sue Adams, is funny, wise and wonderful. Gifted with a sincere desire to help others, Sue has not only worked with community leaders and philanthropists to get the means and the methods implemented for a newly renovated homeless center, but she also works in countless individual ways that make a difference.
I never realized this more clearly than the other night when my wife and I were having dinner at a local restaurant along with Sue and some friends. Halfway into our meal, a confused and careworn woman was wandering around looking for her purse. When I tried to help her in locating the manager, she defensively pulled away. Sue walked with the woman and talked to her. Her words clearly had a calming effect.
Sue called the center and made arrangements to have the woman spend the night. She then left her dinner, and with the help of another friend, drove the woman to the shelter. She returned in time to watch us all finish our dessert. When we encouraged her to order something more, she simply made a joke that the abbreviated meal fit with her diet plans. We all laughed but took notice of yet another example of individual compassion.
At the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey realizes that he had a pretty wonderful life not because his accomplishments were on a grand scale, but because they were on an individual level that touched the lives of so many. “This is why compassionate thought,” the Dalai Lama reminds us, “is so very important for humankind.”
Sue Adams is that compassionate thought in action, and our community is all the richer for it.