“Compassion inflicts its knife-like pain only on those who, strong or not, brave or not, intelligent or not (such qualities are beside the point), have been granted the horrible gift of looking the world full in the face and seeing it as it is.”
– Marguerite Yourcenar, French novelist and essayist
And this quote makes me wonder. Wonder about the times I looked suffering in the face.
In my early teaching years, I taught on the Navajo Reservation at a Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School.
I was there for three seconds before I fell in love. Head over heels, think about your nonstop, completely in love.
Madly in love with twenty-five of the naughtiest boys you have ever encountered. Twenty-five boys ages five to eleven who lived in a dorm and only saw their parents on weekends. Boys who gave me old Valentines, multiple cases of lice, and a new understanding of the game Hide and Seek (You know about the seeking for an hour and a half version, right?).
Those boys taught me about suffering, poverty, and finding joy in places joy doesn’t normally bloom.
And the truth is, if given the opportunity, I probably would have looked away, but since I lived at the boarding school, turning away from one problem only left me staring directly at another.
At the time, I knew I was looking into the eyes of something new, but what I didn’t know was that I was also growing compassion.
Don’t forget to look up from all the important stuff today. Who knows. You may find yourself growing a bit of compassion too.