Tag Archive | Compassion for Humanity

PEOPLE ARE BORN WITH BASIC GOODNESS

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” – Anne Frank

The story below demonstrates that “people are just people.” It’s also an example of basic human goodness and dignity. The gifts of reverence, compassion, and hope too. As Alan Cohen said, “Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters… Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.” 

My friend, Kathy, and I had just began an early morning beach walk before class at the University of Santa Monica. She and I were graduate students there. We hadn’t walked far when Kathy stopped and held her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said. She looked like she might faint too. I knew she had just started taking a bunch of vitamins and had taken them on an empty stomach that morning. With her leaning on me, we slowly made our way toward the shade under the Santa Monica Pier.

There was a man under the pier. I had noticed him as we approached. He looked like he had spent the night there, actually many nights. I avoided making eye contact.  

Once there, sure enough, Kathy was sick. Neither of us had water or a tissue.

Tenuously, the homeless man approached us. “I don’t have any water but you’re welcome to what I have,” he said, holding up a bag wrapped around a bottle of amber liquid.
He was sincere and kind, gentlemanly and generous.

In an instant, that man, and the whole situation of Kathy sick under the pier, went from ugly to beautiful and from scared to sacred. There was nothing “other” about him. Nothing offensive. Nothing frightening. There was nothing to judge. He was one of us, three people with basic goodness who happened to be under the pier at the same time.

With love, gratitude, and joy,
Charlene     

 

NO MATTER WHAT WE FACE TODAY, WE CAN SEE BEAUTY

dead tree lying downIn 1943, at age 29, Etty Hillesum was sent with her family to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Like Anne Frank, Etty kept a diary. In it, she writes about the beauty she sees and the compassion she feels for humanity.

 

I like to hold in my mind an image of Etty as she describes herself “standing in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears running down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.”

 

Gratitude! This young woman is living in a death camp and expressing gratitude for the beauty she sees.

 

In my mind’s eye, I try to picture young Etty–malnourished, perhaps abused and bruised–and yet appreciating the goodness and beauty of life. In my imagination, I stand by her side, and I wonder: What might she be appreciating in the moment? Is it something in nature? Does she see a purple wildflower pushing its way through parched soil? Has she spotted a deer in the distance? Has she heard the lilting call of a bird to its mate? Might the formation of clouds in the sky above offer a lovely sight to behold? Or, might a happy memory be uplifting her?

 

Any or all of those things, at times, may have stirred gratitude and joy in Etty’s heart. However, I sense in her a capacity and a commitment to seeing beauty, and expressing beauty, no matter what. In fact, she also wrote, “I know what may lie in wait for us…And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful.”

 

Etty’s perspective leads me to think: “Surely, no matter what I face today, I too can find life beautiful.”

 

                (From TOUCHSTONES: STORIES FOR LIVING THE TWELVE GIFTS)