In the third grade my teacher handed out Weekly Readers, a children’s version of a newspaper, at the end of one day for the class to read together. It was 1980 during the Iran hostage crisis making that the main headline. As we read the article together, I was overcome by sadness for the hostages and their families.
I was quiet and shy back then, but I was sure if I could somehow contact President Carter, I could help. All I needed was to talk to the people responsible for the crisis and tell them how sad the hostage’s families were, tell them how much the hostages’ families missed them and loved them, remind them of their own families and how they would feel if someone did this to their loved ones. I was sure it would work. I couldn’t understand why no one else had thought to do it.
Years later as I thought back to that sweet little girl, I laughed at her. She was so cute and so naïve. She thought the world’s problems could be solved by simple compassion. I discovered the world was so much more complicated than that. I learned about diplomacy and negotiations and war. I realized that we need to protect ourselves and guard our hearts and be tough enough to handle this world. I understood that we should be realistic about the limitations of love.
Last night I had dinner with a close friend. She told me a story that happened to her a couple days before. She heard a loud boom at her window and when she went outside, she saw a bird lying in her yard. She had no idea how to help it. As she walked around the bird looking for injuries, she petted its tiny head to comfort it. She realized it was not badly hurt, just stunned by the crash. She felt close to the bird, connected to it. Minutes later she watched with excitement as it flew away.
I listened to her story wide-eyed. You see, on that same day she mentioned, almost the same thing happened to me. I found a bird that seemed unable to fly sitting in the grass in my backyard. I felt helpless, not knowing what to do. I crouched close to it looking for injuries and spoke gently and lovingly to it. “It’s ok bird,” I cooed, looking into its eyes, “You’re going to be ok. Aren’t you so sweet? Everything’s going to be alright.” And whoosh, it flew away.
Now, I am not one who believes in coincidences. I knew the fact that my friend and I had the same experience on the exact same day meant something. The experience had been powerful for both of us alone, but together the power grew. God was trying to get our attention, to send us a message. I needed to listen.
As I drove away from the restaurant, windows open to the cool air of an autumn night, I envisioned these little birds being showered with compassion and then soaring in the air, overcoming any injury or pain they had experienced. Then I pictured that third grade girl, so innocent, so naïve. I imagined her heart full of simple love, who trusted that compassion could solve all problems, that compassion could heal all wounds, who believed that everyone has the capacity within them to love and be loved. I suddenly realized that she was the wise one, she was the one who had it all figured out, she was the voice I needed to guide me.
I don’t care anymore if it makes me naïve. Maybe my little eight-year-old self could not have freed the hostages back in 1980, but I’m not going to let that stop me from sharing compassion freely wherever I go, compassion for myself and others. I am going to see the potential for good in everyone, including myself. I am going to have faith in people’s capacity to grow and heal, including my own. I am going to know that all people on this earth have worth and value, including me. I am going to believe we all have a Divine spark within of us capable of miracles and transformations, even me.
Compassion is the healing balm of this wounded world. It has power that can be found nowhere else on this earth. I am not going to withhold that just because some think it’s impractical or silly or naïve. I have spent my life thinking I needed to defend myself for being compassionate. I am not going to defend myself anymore. I am compassionate, because that 8-year-old girl was right all along. She is the wise one. The world is the one who’s confused.
Compassion, in one form or another, solves all problems and heals all wounds. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes, with situations, with people, and even with birds. I am going to love fully and freely until I leave this planet, do my part to heal the world, to heal myself. We need more naïve people on this earth to believe we can do this. I am going to be one of them. I’m praying you will join me. And even if you don’t, I still see your beauty, I still love you, I still am certain that you are capable of amazing things on this earth.