The Test of Compassion
Every day, I have battles in my mind, concerning various choices. I have to choose what to wear, what to eat, friends to hang out with, how to spend my money, among other things. These small daily mind battles are the major determinants of how my day turns out. Choice guides my daily activities, and this brings me an awesome day, or a ruined day. Going by the teachings of my parents, as well as my experiences, I have learnt to be extra cautious on whatever choices I make. Each day, I retire to bed feeling “Yes, today was so right!” or “what a dammed day it was!” I therefore have grown up knowing the influence of the power of choice on my state of happiness and mind.
The hardest part has been how the choices I make affect those people around me. This has resulted in most of my dilemmas, since the choices I make, might influence the people around me positively, but affect me negatively. In addition, these may benefit me, while hurting those around me. This has helped me distinguish between selflessness and selfishness. This is one of the hardest experiences in anyone’s life. One may choose to be selfless, or sacrifice their happiness for others, or may as well choose to do nothing. However, selflessness is associated with self-fulfillment, and so ideally the best choice to make. Nonetheless, most people find it hard to sacrifice their happiness for others, since personal happiness is highly upheld today, as the society has evolved to embrace individuality.
People want to associate themselves with the positive attributes while in real life; they do not measure up to them. No one wants to be deemed “bad,” even if they are actually “bad.” Few people will be realistic enough to accept their shortcomings, such as meanness, and pride. I have always considered compassion to be one of my greatest virtues. This is deeply rooted in my mind, and whenever I am asked about my virtues, I must mention compassion. However, I never had encountered a situation that called for my compassion to play, yet deep inside; I would feel pain and empathy for people in adversity.
Today, I am happy that I had my “compassion test.” On this cold evening my friends and I were warmly dressed, chatting jovially, excited for group fun, after a long time. On the streets, I coincidentally meet my cousin, with whom I chat with as my friends proceed. After a hearty chat, I rush to catch up with my friends. In one of the corridors, one awful sight catches my eyes. A homeless person, sitting in a corner was beckoning me toward him. I was quite in a hurry and contemplated ignoring him. However, the compassion in me forced me to go to him.
This man was frail, he seemed to have not eaten anything in the past days, and his clothes were in tatters. I just looked at him, not knowing what to say to him. After a minute or so, he told me his predicament, how foreclosure forced him to the streets. This was my first encounter with a homeless person on the streets, and so I did not know how express my sympathy to him. He cleared a few minutes’ silence with, “Can you help me out?” This led me into thinking, I had only twenty-five dollars on me, which I had planned to spend with my friends on snacks in the movies, among other things. Giving him these would mean less fun for me and my friends. “Sorry man, I have no money on me now,” I mumbled, hesitantly. With no response from him, I hurriedly ran across the streets to meet my friends who had now stopped to wait for me. The old man had now taken my thoughts.
We checked into a store and purchased some snacks before settling to enjoy the movie. I had made sure to save a few dollars for the old man to hand him on my way back home, I was sure I would still find him at the corner. After the movies, each of us took different directions, promising to meet the next day at school. With the dollars in my pockets, I hurriedly walked to the direction of the old man. However, I was shock-stricken on seeing the corps, with a body bag. I saw the old man’s old leather bag at the same point it was, and the corps carried him in a body bag. This event sent multiple chills down my spine. I knew he had starved to death. If only I had given him a few dollars when he asked, he would have bought food. Many questions ran through my mind, and I went home feeling terrible.
A talk with my family on this experience relieved the tension in me. The encouragement that I was not responsible for the whole situation made me feels better. However, it took me a few more days to erase the guilty conscience in me. However, what strengthened me most is my mother who emphasized that the experience was just a test of my compassion, which I failed. Nonetheless, there were more tests to come, and this was just the beginning of my turning point, in the level of my compassion.
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