Guest Post by Susan Smylie
I attended a Compassion San Antonio event today, Musical Bridges Around the World Amal concert, a lovely performance by two concert pianists from Israel and Palestine, Bishara Haroni and Yaron Kohlberg. Before the concert began, the Charter for Compassion was read by two women, again, one from Israel and one from Palestine. This was a very special moment that would help to set the tone for the concert. However, almost as soon as the reading began a young child started fussing. I was on the opposite side of the performance hall from where the child was fussing and it was distracting to me, making it hard to hear what the readers were saying, much less concentrate on their meaning.
I have four children and a grandchild, I have been a foster parent, I have led meetings where they were many loud babies and toddlers present. I have a lot of patience with children and have a particular soft spot for young children when they are in situations where they have to be quiet and still for a long time—this is so hard for them. Still, I was finding myself feeling irritated—why wouldn’t the mother or father remove the child? Surely they could see this was disrupting the event, that it was not appropriate for the setting? I was not upset with the child, but I was bothered by the perceived lack of caring by the parents. It was becoming quite annoying.
Then, as the reading of the Charter for Compassion was drawing to an end and the wailing of the child was getting louder—everything changed. I could see some activity in the area of where the noise was coming from—and then someone walked onstage with the crying child . . . and handed him to his mother. One of the people reading the Charter of Compassion. This poor toddler had been crying for his mother, who was onstage, reading about compassion while having to listen to her baby get more and more upset.
The moment I realized what was happening, everything in me shifted—I went from irritation and annoyance to feeling great love and compassion. My eyes filled with tears and I honestly understood that moment from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” where the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes—because that is what I felt. My heart filled with such love, for this child, for this mother and for all of us who were able to witness first hand this act of compassion—this real life demonstration of what was being read to us.
The last two sentences of the Charter state: “Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.” Watching that young child be carried on stage, seeing him calm as he was handed to his mother, his head resting on her shoulder, the relief and comfort he felt—it drove home for me how in any situation it is impossible to know the entire story. There is always more to know and that additional bit of information can make all the difference in the world. Anger, frustration, annoyance can all instantly become compassion.
It also drove home for me the importance of starting from a place of compassion. To remember always there is more that is unknown and to trust in that and treat others as the valuable humans they are, regardless of my current feelings about their behavior. It is not grand gestures that will change the world, but rather the simple act of always treating those we encounter with the love and compassion we want for ourselves. I will forever be thankful to this tiny human who reminded me of this today in a most eloquent way.