I have found that the basis of my beliefs lies in being whole and finding sustenance in each event or occurrence in my life. Exactly what it is that defines completeness or sustains me brings to mind a conversation I had with my 10-year-old son as I attempted to explain the meaning behind being kind or showing compassion toward others. After a quick inventory of all the times in my life that I acted on behalf of another not knowing whether the outcome would be welcomed or appreciated, I shared an example from my adolescence when I witnessed an automobile accident in which an elderly woman drove into an intersection and was hit by another driver. At the intersection, I jumped off my bike and raced over to the woman’s car. I was able to get the woman out and carefully guide her through oncoming traffic to the side of the road. While I don’t really know why I felt drawn to help a stranger, especially now that I am in my forties and consider an adolescent to be too insecure to really make such a gesture, I still recall the sensation of knowing that despite any risk to my safety or whether I would be thanked for my actions, I simply knew that I must respond to a dangerous situation. I believed that I had no other choice in the matter that it was the right thing to do. I have often felt this sensation of knowing without hesitation when it comes to helping or acting on behalf of another. It is this sensation or knowing about myself that has helped me to empathize with what compelled a friend of mine to dive in after his brother who was drowning in unpredictable and rough river rapids, to only drown along side him. In one act of self-sacrifice, I believe that my friend revealed just what it means to embrace great risks in stepping forward and intervening. These risks are the source of all connectedness, to reach out forever knowing the answer to the ultimate question being asked “At what cost?”
I believe that it is not the denial of self that assisting others requires it is, in fact, the opposite. Awareness of the self and how I affect others are the reasons why I act compassionately. While I believe I am whole, I am not perfect. I cannot be everywhere and always intervene when I know injustices and ill will occur. I believe that I can do what I must in the time, place and interactions that I find myself experiencing and living. I believe in being aware of my affect on others and in being aware, that I move gently, that I might pass unobserved and that my actions will allow others to be better at who they are becoming and in turn affect those in their lives. I believe in being connected and to trust this connection as feeding my humanity.
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