A Lesson in Compassion

22 Nov

Recently I have lived through a series of events that has brought me full circle to a greater understanding of something Grandmother Parisha wrote about years ago: Compassion.

I currently hold a service position in the restaurant industry. Our location has been plagued by an alcoholic man, “Billy,” who lives just around the corner and who over the past year that I’ve been there, has spent the better part of every day all day walking our parking lot to bum money and meals from people attempting to come into the restaurant or leaving it.

I’m not really sure how management handled this prior to, or if it just escalated after my arrival, but as point person on the counter, I began to inform people that the man wasn’t really homeless and that he had a full-time job “working” our customers. Most of the people really appreciated finding that out. Billy wasn’t too happy with me, though. I put a serious dent into his daily “catch.”  Half the time he would beg for money, wait until the person who gave it to him drove away and then head off to the liquor store next door.

As a recovering alcoholic I knew that people really weren’t helping him, even though they were obviously trying to practice generosity. Others would cite being “good Christians.”  But from my perspective they were just being good enablers, which I refused to be.

Things escalated and in the end, Billy was arrested on outstanding warrants, and the owner obtained a restraining order to keep him off the premises, but not before he came into the restaurant to try to get me fired and threaten me.

Every time I saw this guy I experienced anger. At this point we examine some of Grandmother Parisha’s words which I had obviously forgotten:

“When we have Compassion, our heart is open, and we become stronger than the things we usually judge and avoid that cause us pain, anger, and outrage.”

Yeah, I had outrage – I started after Billy that day he threatened me and might have done some damage had not two managers come swooping around from behind me to escort him out the door.

After he got hauled away to jail a couple times, I finally got a handle on the advice I’ve often heard in 12-Step Recovery rooms, i.e. “pray for the person who is the object of your anger.”

Yeah, Boy! That one didn’t come easy!

But I understood the wisdom of it. Little by little I have been able to let go of my judgments, chant the mantra “There but for the Grace of God go I” and move on with occupying my attention on much more productive thoughts and activities.

There’s a young man who hangs out with Billy who actually helped me get things in perspective one day. I was leaving work and he and Billy were coming towards me. I walked by them and then Billy yelled something out from behind me. Everything in me knew not to engage, but I turned around, walked back to him and did so anyway. I wanted to hurt him so I found something to say that I knew would. It was then that the younger man, Anthony, said softly, “Come on Deb, what’d you want to do that for? Just walk away from him.”  That soft spoken gentle young man was my saving grace that day and I am extremely grateful for the wisdom that came through him.

Grandmother Parisha has taught us that Creator speaks through all Beings, as well as all Creation, and this man was definitely my messenger of Compassion (and sanity!) that day.

Anthony came into the store one day and said something about Billy being in jail again on outstanding warrants. He referred to him as my “enemy.”  I told him Billy wasn’t my enemy, he was my teacher. And I meant it.

By the way, Anthony seemed to have knowledge of 12-Step Recovery groups, so I bought him a “Big Book” and gave it to him one day. Don’t know if he’ll ever read it but inside the cover I wrote “Hope is Found Here.”

“As we can open ourselves to others and begin to understand more, which is better than condemning them, we learn how to apply Love and forgiveness to relieve the suffering.” writes Parisha in her article, Compassion

“We gain a true sense of freedom as we see the results of our caring and perseverance.” (ibid).

Anthony comes into the store almost every day, making a point of saying hello. Sometimes he’ll even reference something about recovery. Who knows? He may never read that book I gave him, but we definitely have a connection, and when I look at him now I feel compassion for him and Billy. My anger has subsided and I am at peace with knowing that I have been blessed with a gift (sobriety) that others have not been able to achieve, but that doesn’t make me superior, it just makes me extremely blessed!

“Compassion is not done for others, it is done with others, for yourself,because you can no longer deny the need.

“Life is Joy and it is the role of us all to reduce suffering on this planet and live fully what we really are, Co-Creators.” – Parisha*

*Excerpts from Compassion Copyright © 1994 Parisha

©2010 Deborah Adler. All rights reserved. [Quoted Exerpts in bold italics from Compassion by Parisha Taylor. Copyright © 1994 Parisha]

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