Compassion is not a Convenience

Photo by Aurelijus Valeisa

While viewing a lake at a local park, my children and I spotted something not too far off the shore, gasping. Just under the surface, I saw the signs of landscaping net, and I knew what had happened. Some of the landscape netting had made its way into the lake, where a poor, unsuspecting fish had managed to become entrapped.

I explained to my children what happened to the fish. At that point I could have walked away, but our family tries to help others. A fish was no exception. I looked around for the biggest stick I could find; it was too short to reach. The water was murky, although not too deep. While the day was a lovely temperature, the water itself was cold. However, compassion isn’t always convenient. Sometimes we have to make an effort.

I handed my 11 month old to her older siblings, took off my sling, and stripped off my socks and shoes. I rolled my jeans up as far as I could, hoping that we wouldn’t be leaving the park with me soaked in muddy lake water. Then I waded in. The cold mud oozed between my toes and over my feet, although I couldn’t see them for the murky water. I finally was close enough to reach the net with my stick, as I noticed small bits of blood escaping from the fish.

Snagging the net with the stick, I pulled it, along with the fish, back to shore. I wasn’t hopeful that I could save the fish, but I had to try. Back on the soft mud of the bank, I crouched before the water, working to rip the net apart to free the fish, my audience on pins and needles as they watched to see whether their mother would indeed rescue the poor fish.

Once freed, I hoped that the fish, despite its injuries, would swim away, happy for another chance at life. However, it’s gasping continued and, no longer anchored by the net, its body floated upside down, blood ocassionally seeping from the damaged gills. There was only one more thing I could do to help: end its life quickly and painlessly. I loathed the idea of doing it. I wasn’t certain how exactly I was to kill this fish with what I had available in such a manner as to ease its suffering rather than increase it.

Looking up toward the park proper, I noticed another family looking out towards the lake. I put the sling back on with my youngest in it, grabbed by socks and shoes in one hand and helped my other children up the embankment with the other, and headed toward them. I explained the situation and the father nodded, asked where it was, and headed down to help out.

Compassion isn’t always convenient. Sometimes we have to reach out a hand or go out of our way to help someone. While not always convenient, compassion is also not a convenience. It’s a necessity. If we have no compassion for others, we cannot fully connect with them. Compassion is a necessity, whether in regard to a friend, a stranger, our spouse, or a tired three year old.

Easy Sun Wreath

Today’s activity on our Solstice Calendar was to make a wreath for our front door. I had originally planned something a bit more modern, but budget and time constraints, along with the fact that our steel door can get very hot in the sun (my original plan was edible), dictated some changes.

I cut a simple wreath shape out of a cardboard box that was in our recycling bin. You could purchase an actual wreath form at the store, but cardboard is free and reusing items is always good for our planet. Strips of fabric were cut from my stash. This is actually a good project to use up some of a fabric stash that has been sitting around for a while.

The kids debated about what colors to use. Traditional Yule colors of red, green, and gold were suggested, along with cheers for blues, a suggestion of a rainbow wreath, and others. They eventually settled on the colors of the sun – oranges and yellows, which fit in beautifully with our discussion.

Strips of roughly cut fabric are tied onto the form. The only caveat with this wreath is that you probably don’t want any cardboard showing. We opted to just tie on a lot of fabric. However, if I hadn’t had any children older than preschool age, I think I may have first wrapped the cardboard in fabric and then had them tie their pieces on. Scrunching the fabric together to hide the cardboard meant a lot more time spent on the wreath.

When we finished the wreath (I helped tie at the end), we were able to discuss the symbolism involved.

  • the sun wreath represents our celebration of the return of the sun, and longer days
  • the circular form represents the rotation of the planet, ofthe ever turning cycle of life and seasons
  • the multiple fabrics are both different and similar, representing our world is made of different peoples and cultures but that we are still all people
  • the ends of the fabric are the sun’s rays, radiating out and helping living things. Our actions not only affect ourselves but also affect others. When we do acts of kindness for others, theose people are more likely to have a good day and spread more kindness.

eight gifts of kindness…

Photo by Tali Le Bamba

  The Gift of Listening…

Listen. Really listen. Don’t multi-task, daydream, or do anything else. If you are physically with the person, look them in the eye. Practice active listening.

The Gift of Affection…

Act in ways that communicate how you feel about someone. Give hugs, kisses, pats in the back. Shake someone’s hand or let someone know you have been thinking about them.

The Gift of Laughter…

Share a laugh with someone. Make a funny face, do something silly, share a funny story, or share the latest joke your child told you.

The Gifts of a Written Note…

Write a note to someone and hand it to them or mail it. Skip the e-mail or texting. Hand-written notes are still in vogue.

The Gift of a Compliment…

Give someone a simple, sincere compliment. It doesn’t even matter if you know the person or not.

The Gift of a Favor…

Make a point of doing something to help out another person.

The Gift of Solitude…

Be sensitive of others and give them some downtime.

The Gift of a Cheerful Disposition…

Brighten someone’s day with simple gestures. A smile or “thank you” goes a long way. You may change the way someone’s day is going.