The joy of compassion

It was a wintry evening, bleak with grey, ominous clouds, foreboding a gloomy dusk. Yet, for those chilling out at the fast food joint, it was a jolly evening. The mood was one of merriment, with laughter and joy suffusing the air as my children and I entered the restaurant for a quick bite after a shopping spree.

At the entrance, a middle-aged lady eager to convey a message accosted me. Upon a closer look at her weather-beaten face and crumpled clothes, I could surmise the reason why she was there. She was probably hungry, broke and in need of some money. Though my immediate impulse was one of pity, a prudent voice within reminded me of imposters who dupe the nave. Paying heed to my scruples, I ignored her and walked into the cafe with my kids in tow.

Once in, we found a suitable place, got ourselves some hot, yummy treats and settled to enjoy our evening together. But I soon discovered that was not meant to be. For, from my seat I could see this lady very clearly through the glass shutters of the caf. And what I saw gradually began to bother me.

At a monotonous regularity, she would approach incoming customers with a request. While most, like me, I am ashamed to admit, outrightly chose to ignore her, some seemed to hear her out, only to shake their heads before quickly walking past her. Noticing my interest in the happening outside, my children too began to take notice. We soon agreed that on our way out we would help her.

What a disappointment we felt when as we were getting ready to leave and meet her, the lady too started walking swiftly away from the place. Realising that she had last spoken to the gentleman who was entering the caf, I enquired with him what the lady had conveyed. He said that she was in need of money for bread and milk for her sick child and that moved by her plight, he had given her a couple of Rs 100 notes.

What made this man react with compassion while all others chose to shut it out, I wondered later that evening. It intrigued me that though we are all gifted with this ability to be compassionate, only a few of us use it.

Perhaps, such special people make the profound discovery that though it is easier and safer to ignore, responding with compassion is always a far more gratifying act. No wonder this compassionate gentleman radiated such joy while I was left feeling small at my lack of greatness!

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