Have You Seen My Compassion?

It’s Lent. I love Lent. Unlike New Years, when you reflect on your bad habits and vow to change them forever, Lent is only 40 days and 40 nights.

It’s manageable.

Plus I really like star charts, stamps, and bite-sized praise, so I get very excited about manageable goals that can be measured in stickers.

This year, since we moved from the Bronx, I decided to make compassion my Lenten resolution. Five years of working or living in some of NYC’s roughest neighborhoods sucked the stuff right out of me.

It’s funny, because a few people in Oregon have told me that New Yorkers are actually very nice. Which makes me wonder, How did I become so mean?

I should have learned from these nice New Yorkers. Instead, I’m badly in need of a reboot.

But I think there’s a simple explanation. New Yorkers are not so nice, per se. They just like to know things. So if you are wearing a wind breaker and have a map out, lots and lots of people will stop to help.You clearly don’t know something that they know (Where the Delacorte Theater is; How to understand Charlie Brown’s teacher who is driving the subway; Which way to the Magnolia Bakery from Sex in the City).

But if you’re in Target in the Bronx and want to find out the pricing on a vacuum, your friendly New York employee would rather check email on his Blackberry, and then insist that there’s no way to call a manager, because he doesn’t know about the vacuum. If you are persistent, he might say, “I see why no one wanted to help you in the first place.”

I spent so much time calling corporate headquarters to complain, or attending community meetings, or asking parents to stop swearing so loudly at the playground, that far from losing the flame that burns inside me, I let it grow into an inferno fueled by frying oil.

I don’t run tourists over with my stroller anymore. I have a car.

So please help me locate my compassion. I really, really need to find it. I only have 40 days and 40 nights.

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12 responses to “Have You Seen My Compassion?

  1. You are the kindest, warmest, most loving person I know. And we lived in NYC together ;). Your compassion–if you truly think you have misplaced it–is *right there*. Look down. Or up. Or wherever. It’s your aura.

    • Mrs. M, you are too kind, as usual. I just never ran you over with K-Pants in a stroller. 🙂 But, you know, anger can just creep into your daily life and become this little annoying friend. And I thank you for your suggestion to look up, down, and wherever. I think I will do all three.

  2. Good one. I don’t celebrate Lent and don’t know much about it, but I would say you are getting at the heart of it. I’ve heard about people giving up trivial things like candy or caffeine (or one person who was sacrificing cheese!!!) and wonder how that’s really helping anyone. Giving up being mean is much more thoughtful though and can be a benefit to you and all those around you. Not that you are mean, by any means, but it is always good to be introspective and try to improve oneself. I’m also glad to hear that you are not giving up cheese.

  3. Maybe this won’t help, but I think it IS compassionate to report belligerent employees and generally unproductive practices. It helps the rest of us who are disgruntled by the system, but feel too overwhelmed to do anything about it at the moment. So thanks, and keep it up. (And yes, I also think you are an exceptionally compassionate person in other ways too.)

    • I’m glad that you appreciated that! Being pregnant I’ve lost a little bit of the spark, so someone else might have to take up the torch of customer complaints.

  4. I think the issue around here isn’t a lack of compassion, it’s the lack of Personal Space and the need to be a Fast Speaker to survive.

    My (unsolicited) advice? Take a breath and remind yourself to stop looking at the ground/inanimate objects when you walk around. Assess the people near you, remember to smile (I don’t think you need your Yo Crazy Subway Dude Don’t Eff With Me Face on in your new town), and maybe try paying compassion forward anonymously, first.

  5. Well, I didn’t need “Lent” to give up being such a–well, you get it! I quit working in a prison facility and it has helped me immensely! I spent my youth being a recluse and almost went right back into that mode (totally) from working there…To make a long story short, a certain dog loving, blog writing, jewelry making lady helped me to get over my case of posterior cranial rectumitis…I started looking into my heritage and things have been great ever since! Now if I can break myself of sitting where I can see every visible exit and talking to people in “interview stance”… 😀

    • Still laughing about that last line! Old habits die hard don’t they? I used to teach first grade, and when I moved to a corporate media environment it kept weirding-out my producer that I would crawl or walk on my knees to get stuff. So used to working with the little people!
      But you had a way more intense environment. I’m so glad to hear that you are making a come back. It’s hard sometimes to differentiate what is “you” and what are just behaviors coming from your situation.

  6. Well that totally made me laugh out loud!! I love your writing Evelyn!
    I’m afraid to break it to you though, but you ARE nice!! TOTALLY NICE, in face you’re more than nice – you’re generous and kind and caring!!
    And I speak from experience here….remember I was the stranded Irish girl who couldnt get home from New York because of Eyjafjallajökull (or should I say not so nice volcano in Iceland) 😉

    • Thank you for the kind words and the vision of my better self. I’m using Lent as my “reboot.” Sometimes there are bugs in the programming that start to take over… 🙂

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