A Simple Practice of Compassion

The man doesn’t look too happy.

He pays his fare without a smile and moves toward the back of the bus. But the bus is crowded, and he can’t avoid bumping into several people on the way. He offers no gesture of pardon or apology. Reaching an empty seat, he sits down, crosses his arms, and retreats into the hood of his winter coat.

To you, I wish joy. May you find a reason, even if it be small, to smile. May you find a moment of laughter.

The woman in the red jacket appears restless. She checks her phone. Must be no new messages new for a moment later, she puts the phone away. She glances around the bus. “Why won’t the driver move us faster?” her face seems to say. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Her feet rap against the floor. She pulls out her phone again.

To you, I wish peace. May you find contentment in your journey. May you be at ease.

The heavyset man with the white beard is probably drunk. He speaks loudly. Though he sits across the aisle from me and his words are in clear English, I can’t make out what he says. A bottle of liquor pokes out from the black shopping bag beside him. On he rambles.

To you, I wish a safe journey home. May you arrive without injury to yourself or others. May you have a good night of sleep tonight.

A mother with her daughter get on the bus. The mother directs her child to a seat and they sit down next to each other. The noisy bus doesn’t make the best place for conversation, so they both stay quiet.

To you, I wish your relationship may be full of life and joy. May it grow stronger and stronger.

Standing upright near the rear exit is an older gentleman. We had both waited for the bus at the same stop, sharing jokes until the bus arrived. A smile still shines in his eyes.

To you, friend, I wish continued laughter and delight. May you enjoy the rest of your day. May your smile be contagious.

I can’t see the driver. He sits behind a partition, concentrating on the traffic ahead of us. I do remember him smiling as I boarded the bus though.

To you, brother, I wish safety as you drive. May you find delight in your work — in the turning of the wheel, the blinking of the lights, and the interactions with those you serve.

I watch the people in the bus. Often, I’ll create narratives for each person — judging their actions and inadvertently pretending I’m superior to them. But today, I remember to practice. I act on the words of Father Greg Boyle: “How can we seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it?”

To each person, I try and offer a small prayer of blessing.

to you
who is worthy
of goodness and joy
I wish goodness and joy

to you
who deserves
boundless love
I wish boundless love

My well wishes probably won’t make a difference to the people I wish them to. Sure, there’s a small chance they’ll notice my smile toward them. There’s a possibility I’ll have an opportunity to help them later. But most likely, they’ll never know of my blessing. They’ll continue with their days as if nothing happened.

But really, the practice isn’t about them. It’s about me. It’s about us.

For each time we choose to see another person’s suffering instead of casting judgment we train ourselves to be open.

Each time we offer a simple blessing to someone, we force ourselves to look outward. We see the world beyond ourselves. We see that we are not the only ones with needs and struggles. Slowly, but steadily, we strengthen our capacity for empathy, compassion, and generosity.

There will come a time when we will be able to give more than an unspoken blessing. We will have the chance to touch another — to offer compassion and service. And because of our practice, we will be ready.

***

Several minutes later, I step off the bus. I feel as though all the blessings I wished upon others have rained down on me.

###

13 thoughts on “A Simple Practice of Compassion”

  1. And the Father hears our prayers… our blessings over others… and reaches out because it was His desire for them in the first place! 🙂 We’re partners in His heart for others.

  2. Thank you, Josh. After reading your blog today, I wrote a second letter to someone. In my first letter I was judgmental. In my second letter I wished them boundless love. I need your blogs every week (and the people I interact with daily, if you know what I mean.) Thank you.

    1. I hope that second letter works out wonderfully, and I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      Truth be told, I need my writing too. Most often, the lessons and reminders are directed at myself.

  3. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I have to carry this with me and practice, practice, practice. I have a feeling my days will be so much better for it.

    Nazima

  4. Loved this Joshua! How a single moment of love during your day can bounce back at you multiplied and then ripple across all of us days later. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I love this suggestion. Turns my heart from judgmental to partnering in someone’s burden. But we all need goodness and joy and boundless love even though we are not worthy and don’t deserve it. That’s unconditional love.

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