After washing my face and turning to my towel, I glimpsed the light switch and thought how clumsy it would be to grasp it with my wet hands, yet how simply with a simple touch it could make the whole room go dark. While at the College Transfer Club this afternoon, our president saw the clock and remarked how none of them are ever right on time around our campus, how awesome a project it’d be if we could get them all in sync; she asked for a slogan, and I said, “The time is right: If not now, when?” The obvious allusion apparently unapparent. And all the while, in my head, tumbling music–specifically that of Regina Spektor, my obsession of late, whose newest album Far one of my kindest and closest friends gave me a copy of the other day.
It brings to mind a myriad of things to be thankful for–I’ll choose just one.
I considered Music. I thought about Friends. I weighed the possibility of Ingenuity, Sharing, and Diversity–and in all likelihood, I’ll get to each of those in turn. But when my fingers danced across my keyboard, they decided upon Compassion.
It’s a simple thing, defined even more simply as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it,” according to Merriam-Webster Online. Then again, with all that jargon, it doesn’t sound simple at all. Simpler yet, compassion is caring for others when they’re not feeling their best and wanting to help ’em out a bit.
I’m a natural thinker of the “see a problem, find a solution” philosophy, and it’s in this same manner of thinking that all my examples seem to relate. Somebody somewhere had to set up all this electricity and keep it going, and probably more for a paycheck than for my benefit, but it’s the (sometimes absent) thought that counts, so I won’t hold it against them. And why did our president suggest what she did? Because college kids are notoriously bad at time management, and if all the clocks run right, we’ll be one step closer to getting things done right. And well, my dearest friend–it started simply enough. I told him I had a song of hers stuck in my head, so without any second thought, he offered to give me the music. It was lovely of him–he saw my subtle suffering and sought to fix it. A true friend indeed.
But it goes deeper than that. It can always go deeper than that. And with compassion, it also should always go deeper than that. It’s a matter of perspective: That speeder? Might be having a baby. That thief? Might not be able to buy bread on his own. That failing student? Maybe she’s been diagnosed with cancer, forced with the possibility of having a hysterectomy, and simply can’t study.
But we don’t always see what our eyes don’t perceive. I was at a party last night and my friend joked with his girlfriend about her tan lines, saying it looked like she still had her bathing suit on, and she got a little angry. So I grinned and said, “The mind fills in what it doesn’t see”–and the whole mood was lifted. (It was only upon later consideration that I began to question why that worked; I came to suppose it changed the bathing suit thought from a jest into a compliment–after all, who wouldn’t want to see their partner in a bathing suit? I know I would!) The point of the matter being, our mind fills gaps, but it doesn’t change what we think we perceive. If we see a man on the outside, that doesn’t mean he’s not a she on the inside–or even just skin deep.
So we’ve got a little thing called compassion. We see suffering and we act to fix it. It’s a shame when we can’t–no, it’s not a shame, it’s a pain. When you care about someone, you want to see them smile, not suffer. And when you can’t fix that, when nothing you say or do–and you probably know I’m talking to you, if you’re reading this right now–it’s the worst thing in the world.
My closest friends have all heard me say to them that all that matters to me is that they’re happy. It’s true. I have the greatest pleasure bringing even the smallest pleasure to my friends–be it holding open a door, encouraging them to write a little more, or just telling them plainly and simply how beautiful they really are and how much I love them.
It’s not compassionate in that it’s not sympathetic, it’s empathetic, but maybe I’ll get to that another day. Today I’m just thankful for all the compassion there is the world, if sometimes hidden, if sometimes overlooked or forgotten. The compassion of the rabbis as they wrote the stubborn and rebellious son out of actuality; the compassion of the congressmen and women voting to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the compassion of the hard workers cleaning oil off animals in the gulf.
And I’m thankful for that.