Compassion is something other than pity. Pity suggests distance, even a certain condescendence. I often act with pity. I give some money to a beggar on the streets of Toronto or New York City, but I do not look him in the eyes, sit down with him, or talk with him. I am too busy to really pay attention to the man who reaches out to me. My money replaces my personal attention and gives me an excuse to walk on.
Compassion means to become close to the one who suffers. But we can come close to another person only when we are willing to become vulnerable ourselves. A compassionate person says: " I am your brother, I am your sister, I am human, fragile, and mortal, just like you. I am not scandalized by your tears, nor afraid of your pain. I too have wept. I too have felt pain." We can be with the other person only when the other ceases to be other and becomes like us.
This, perhaps, is the main reason that we sometimes find it easier to show pity than compassion. The suffering person calls us to become aware of your own suffering. How can I respond to someone´s loneliness unless I am in touch with my own experience of loneliness? How can I be close to handicapped people when I refuse to acknowledge my own handicaps? How can I be with the poor when I am unwilling to confess my own poverty?
This is the beautiful quote that Katy chose for our Spirituality Night reflection this past week. It speaks so well to the experience I am having here in Monte Sinaí, where we are all learning to live with more compassion. Getting to know the hearts of the people and connect with them instead of looking at their homes and noting the differences in what they have and how they live. Although I come from a very different reality, I look at the people here- my students, my friends- and see my brothers and sisters, whom I have grown to love so very much.
Here in Ecuador, Kids´ Day is celebrated on June 1st. At San Felipe, we had a HUGE fiesta! Moms from each grade level dressed up and danced or put on skits to make their kiddos laugh. There were contests, an exciting appearance by Barney (we sang the I Love You song in Spanish AND English), Snow White and Prince Charming, food and presents for all. The kids got to come in their street clothes and left super felices. What a fun day! I dressed up as a clown and danced with the 5th grade moms. My students got a kick out of seeing me like that :)