The great comedian Charlie Chaplin once said, “We think too much and feel too little.” Please tell me I’m not the only one guilty of this. I think and I toil, my mind spins and I continually strive to figure things out … I am a problem-solver after all. Tonight in fact, was a grand design of thinking and planning. When my husband wasn’t going to make it home due to a commitment, I started thinking of all the things I had to accomplish–alone. In my mind, I plotted out my day as it went along and it went something like this: leave work to pick up kids, stop home to change clothes for soccer practice, leave home to go to soccer practice, stay late at soccer because coach was late, get home and make a quick dinner, get kids in the bath, forget the bath until tomorrow so I can just survive, put in movie and sit to write while kids watch, yes … I think I can do it all, I think it will just be enough time! But then, after I finally finished thinking and refining my way through the night and almost inched away with my modified plan, a little hand tugged on mine and asked me to, “snuggle up.”
And just like that, all thoughts filtered into oblivion as I scooped up my daughter and held her. Love and compassion for a four-year-old who didn’t want to share her mommy with a laptop won my time; and it was worth it. My feelings were way more gratifying than my thoughts. Feelings should always win out in the end, but sadly, I don’t think they always do. I think that too often, way too often actually, we tend to let the world desensitize us to a certain degree. We watch the news to the point where political scandals and border wars across the globe no longer make us bat so much as an eyelash. We hear about internet frauds and government leaks and drug cartels and missing people and poverty levels and natural disasters and gang activity and new illnesses and lack of resources and national debt–until one day… we realize that we’ve heard and seen so much, that it no longer means anything at all.
I think that apathetic numbness is what I fear the most, because I see it. I see it on the glazed faces of my peers when they talk about the news, the monotone voices of radio hosts who announce numbers of killings in the city like stock scores, and even on the mask-like faces of middle schoolers who have forgotten how to care. I know … it sounds brutal, dismal in fact, but it makes me remember a quote that, though I don’t know who said it, always brings me back to a sense of resolve. It says, “Everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”
We need to remember this–believe it, and act on it. It isn’t the end. This, isn’t the end; so we might as well do something here and now to get ourselves on the path to being human again. Today we had a, “Day of Compassion” at work, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The time was dedicated to helping our students realize that they need to look outside of themselves and their circumstances to realize what might be below the surface personalities they perceive. Writer Mary Ann Evans (pen name George Eliot) said, “What do we live for; it if is not to make life less difficult for each other?” As well as the day went, and as much as I do believe the kids gained from the scripted Powerpoints and presentations, I couldn’t help but think how easily I could relay compassion to them in one beautiful story … about worms.
The other day, it snowed … again. Yes, it is April and I live in a place where Spring has been (yet again) detained by the wet, sticky flakes that have continually taken over my life since November (a dramatic, but nonetheless–true statement). So it is safe to say that I was less-than-thrilled about this two inch drop, my son, on the other hand, was delighted. He was literally buzzing with energy and smiled widely at the kitchen table saying, “It’s snowing again, I LOVE snow.”
“I know,” I rolled my eyes at the kitchen sink, “I know you love snow buddy. But don’t you think that it is time for Spring now? Haven’t we had enough Winter?”
“Nope,” he said, bouncing on his chair. “I love it.”
At this point, I just wanted him to level with me and see that even mother nature was proverbially being less-than-nurturing.
“Buddy look out the window,” I said. “Do you see all of those worms on the ground? They came out of the dirt yesterday when it rained, thinking it was time to come out and now, they’re freezing. They don’t have coats like us, or fur like our pets. They are cold and stuck.”
“Are they dying?” he asked.
“Mhmm,” I mumbled, continuing on with the dishes.
About a minute later, my son asked if he could pray. Thinking he was about to pray before the dinner I’d just set before him, I said, “Of course, you can always pray, anytime … you know that.”
And he said, “Dear God, I am so sorry that I bragged about the snow. I didn’t know it wasn’t time and now the worms are hurting.”
I looked over and he was sobbing, big, salty-tears rolling down his cheeks as he struggled to go on. Moved at his compassion, I went to him, wrapping him in a huge hug and squeezing tight while I told him there was nothing wrong with loving snow and it was not, in any way, his fault that the worms were cold. After a couple of minutes, I saw that he understood, but felt no better … so I had an idea that came, not from my head, but my heart–because there’s no way it was something I would’ve voluntarily thought of.
“Go get your shoes on,” I said, and opened the back door to the patio. In the next five, below-freezing minutes, my six-year-old, filled-with-compassion son and I picked up about twenty, half-alive worms. At first I was moved with nausea at their writhing and slimy forms, but soon found I became more worried about their cold, purple color and how slow they moved. After getting them all, we found the warmest spot we could under the bush where the soft leaves were piled and the dirt “probably” wasn’t too hard for them to get under. I decided then and there, with dirt and slime-crusted hands, my love language to my son had become saving a frozen worm … and the hope and joy in his sparkling blue eyes made that absolutely okay with me.
Don’t forget to feel, remember that the key word to compassion is actually, passion. So find some. Soon.