Even in times of trouble or pain, authentic compassion can connect us to others in a very meaningful way. If most of us stopped to consider it fully, we would have a greater appreciation for compassion as a positive, binding and powerful force in our lives.
When we feel good we call compassion friendship. It’s when we share in someone else’s life and life feels better that way, no matter what’s happening. When you stop to really think about why your friends are your friends, you’ll tend to think of the times when you bonded over particularly awesome, or particularly terrible circumstances.
Our relationship highs and lows are what bracket the known limits of a friendship. For some people that means they’ll be invited to every party but they wouldn’t help you move on a long weekend. For others it means you may have anointed each other as best friends at your weddings, but maybe you also had to share a kidney. None of these are right or wrong, they’re just what frames your relationship with that person.
Compassion is the force that both establishes and maintains our relationships. The more people we feel compassionate toward the more connected we feel. If we want a better world we don’t have to make friends with people we’re already friends with, we have to find ways to connect to those we feel are quite different.
Today your assignment in the March of Kindness is to simply watch for an opportunity for compassion with someone you normally wouldn’t think to share it with. Maybe they’re a stranger, or maybe you know them too well and have never even considered enhancing the bond between you. Maybe it’s boss to employee, or child to parent, or teacher to student, or maybe you just never even talk to strangers to help them feel more comfortable.
You’re not looking for something big, just look someone in the eye for long enough that they know you mean it, and connect with them. It can be in words or actions or even non-actions. It doesn’t matter if all you’re saying is something as small as thanks for stopping at the crosswalk, or something as big as sharing in the death of a loved one, it all counts.
The point is only that moment of connection. If we all did this consciously every day then everyone would feel seen, heard and appreciated much more than we all do know. And why don’t we do this otherwise? Mostly because we’re lost in egocentric thought, and that’s the very point of these exercises. To get us out of our heads and back into the world.
We’re not trying to make some huge change overnight. But during one month, we’re actually consciously improving our relationships with others, the world and ourselves. And by practicing it each day, we really do become more sensitive, aware and responsive.
Your assignment is one compassionate connection before the day’s end. If you do more, you’ll benefit more; that’s up to you. But even that one example will make you more conscious of the value of these connections, and as each of us makes these intentional choices each day, we all add our individual drops to the collective bucket of a better world.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.