This I Believe

Oscar - Rock Island, Illinois
Entered on September 25, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in compassion. I believe that there should be more compassion in the world today, specifically towards those who are less fortunate. I grew up in the inner city of Chicago where there was so much poverty. Everywhere I looked poverty was staring me in the face. I remember one Christmas holiday in particular. My mother had come home from work and summoned one of my brothers, one of my sisters and myself to a small, yet meaningful, talk around the kitchen table. She told us about an old man she had been seeing each day as she rode the bus home from work. This man, she told us, was unshavened, unbathed, and apparently very hungry. She surmised this because each time she saw him, he was rummaging through the corner trash can near the neighborhood White Castle restaurant looking for food. She then gave us a mandate to go out, find the man, and bring him to the house so that she could prepare dinner for him. Of course we thought our mother was crazy for even suggesting that we bring a total stranger over to our tiny apartment, much less prepare dinner for him. But she was our mother and we obeyed. We searched high and low for this fellow in the freezing cold but was unable to find him. We then returned home and reported the fruitless search to momma. She had a look of disappointment on her face, but thanked us for looking anyway. Many years have passed since that day, and my dear mother is in Heaven now. However, she did not leave me empty-hearted. She instilled something deep within my heart that has been with me until this day: the need to show compassion; to do for strangers what they unable to do for themselves. It was just the other day, while driving to complete an errand with my 9-year old son that a strikingly simular scenario played out before me. There, on the corner, was a man, unbathed, long beard, and tattered clothing, rummaging through a downtown trash can. My son and I watched as he pulled out a bottle and drained it of its contents. I took the opportunity to share with my son the lesson his grandmother taught me. After I finished explaining, my son, in all of his 9-year old wisdom, said to me, “Dad, let’s go buy him a sandwich and something to drink.” We did, but just like the old man in my mother’s act of kindness, so too did this old man disappear. We search high and low, but in vain. But was it really in vain? I believe that the same compassion that my mother passed down to me had now been passed down to my son. I can only pray that when he grows up, marries, and have children, the legacy of a compassionate heart will be passed on to them.