Compassion in an Uncompassionate Country
The other day, in the pouring rain, we saw a man on crutches slip and fall in the middle of the road. It was as I was turning into the school to fetch my oldest, and my two youngest were in the car. It was bucketing down €“ and I do mean the kind of rain that would soak you if you even opened your window for a minute. I turned left into the school, and the man fell in the middle of the road that I had been on €“ in fact had I not turned, I would have driven straight into him.
Unfortunately my turn meant I was on a blind corner and I couldn€™t stop right there. I slowed, to see if he was ok, and if anyone else would be able to help him, but to my horror, the THREE first cars lined up to come out of the school simply drove cautiously around him and off they went.
I cannot tell you how quickly the bile rose in my throat. I was instantly nauseous. In shock, I gasped. The kids, having not noticed any of this yet, asked what was wrong and I was so upset I blurted out €œNo one is helping him!€ He kept trying to get up, and his crutches kept slipping. He had no traction and was just a helpless lump in the road. It was horrific. By now I had two cars behind me too, but I was about to do a U-Turn when the fourth car€™s door opened and restored my faith in humanity. Kind of.
The boys saw it too, and we all breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief. Thank goodness.
What then disturbed me though, was what came out of my youngest son€™s mouth. €œMommy, do you know something like that happened to my €œJohnny€™s€ mom. Someone fell out of a wheelchair and when she went to help them, they pulled out a gun and robbed her, so I am glad you didn€™t stop!€
And I had no response. Having been held up at gunpoint by four armed men quite recently, I understand the fear. All too well. But have we become so hardened and so fearful in this country that even our children, whose natural inclination would be compassion, are becoming uncompassionate?
That€™s when I began thinking about it €“ how do we raise compassionate kids in this risky city? How do you teach charity to children, when you ignore the beggars that abound at every traffic light? How do you teach kindliness, when you tell them not to talk to strangers? How do you teach benevolence when we are told most children who stand on street corners with their €˜moms€™ are just rented to tug at our heart strings? How do you teach tolerance, when the attitude about car guards is they are just chancers who don€™t really do anything?
How do we do it?
I am not sure I know the answer to this one €“ yes of course, there are charities to donate to, and countless people to help and give to. You can even build a house with Habitat for Humanity, but those things are more like events. It is in the daily living in this town that is hard to be philanthropic, and safe.
Sad. But a fact our children are growing up with.
So what do we do? How do we help them? How do we make sure we are not raising a generation of cold-hearted people who look the other way when an old man on crutches falls down in the pouring rain?
As I said, I don€™t really know the answer. Of course, we can do all sorts of €˜controlled€™ outreach, and donate to worthy causes, but in the scenario of helping little old ladies cross a road, or old men back up on their crutches in the pouring rain, what will we do? What do we teach our children to do?
If you have any thoughts or stories on this, please feel free to share them, I am very interested.
Again, I am not sure how we handle this, but I do know that my son€™s response begs me questioning my own actions in this area.
As James Baldwin said, €œChildren have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.€