Friday, November 6, 2009

Compassion in Action

There is a young man I will call Richard who lives on the streets of this fair city, who drinks so much he can barely stand up, whose face is swollen and scarred probably beyond recognition to those who may have known him as a boy.

He is still a boy, really. Though hard living makes him look like he is in his late forties I once heard him say, when he was sober, that he was barely thirty years old.

I often see Richard with another street kid who begs for change using a pregnant belly to justify the asking. For awhile it looked like Richard and this gal were boyfriend and girlfriend. I have seen her with the belly and without it. Whether it was real I cannot tell you.

Yesterday I saw Richard at the mall, staggering along the sidewalk, barely upright. I said a little prayer for him and then went into the store. When I came out he was being held in a tight grip by the mall security guard. I was in a vehicle so I could not hear what they were saying but it looked like the guard was hurting Richard.

I watched to see if this was true, preparing to get out and intervene but then I realized there was something else going on.

Richard was listening to the security guard in the way that only really drunk people can, head down, eyes closed, total concentration. Richard then swung his free arm around the security guard and hugged him, held him in a tight embrace for many seconds.

The security guard took the hug. His eyes darted around, possibly worried that someone might see, but he let Richard hold him and did not pull away.

When they did come apart they stayed close, still gripping and shaking their hands, as if they'd just made a deal. This little dance was repeated three more times. Richard looking like he was being hurt, listening closely to the guard's whispers, lifting his arm and hugging him tight, the security guard receiving the embrace.

At one point they even came apart and Richard threw down the gloves he was holding with dramatic flourish and then wrapped both his arms around the security guard in a full-on bear hug. When they came apart, the guard picked up Richard's gloves for him and handed them back.

It is at this point that I drove away. They were still shaking hands when I pulled out, standing close again, repeating the scenario. I do not know how long they continued to play out this fascinating drama.

What was it all about? I'll never know. But what I saw both disturbed and moved me. The security guard was pulling some kind of a power trip, that much was clear, but he was doing it in such a way that Richard felt the need to thank him for it by hugging him with all the love he had in his drunken heart, which was a whole lot.

Compassion is defined "sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others."

I'm not exactly sure what I witnessed at the mall yesterday but I did see a kind of compassion in that security guard's actions. It was perhaps not perfect but Richard was able to receive it and though he may not even remember what happened, it touched him deeply in the moment.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I have seen compassion in action and it moved me. I will perform an act of compassion today knowing the power it holds.

1 comment:

  1. Compassion can do amazing things to everyone involved- or even uninvolved as you were!


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