Compassion as a Reflex: A True Story

By Adam J. Pearson

Compassion can inspire us with wisdom about how to act to heal suffering in the best possible way. Today, I was sitting in class at culinary school next to my friend, whom I could tell was feeling really down about something. I asked him if he was okay, and he remained silent, facing his desk. As the class went on, I slid a Ritz cracker along his desk and right into his field of vision, saying nothing, not even looking at him. He didn’t react for a while. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him pick it up and eat it.

The class continued. 10 minutes later, he wrote in his notebook: “Thank you…” and slid it over for me to read. I drew a smiley face under it and slid it back. 10 minutes after that, I wrote “the night is always darkest before dawn and the birth of light” and slid it over to him to read. He wrote a poetic passage about how he was feeling and how the darkness of his love for a girl who wanted to remain single rather than be in a relationship with him was making it hard to have hope, but that he saw a glimmer of light in the distance. I smiled.

10 minutes later, I wrote “cracker? y/n” on a paper and slid it over to him again. He smiled finally, circled “y” and slid it back and I passed him another cracker. By the end of the class, he was laughing and joking again. When we left the class, we had an open talk and he left with no more visible trace of that heavy suffering that had weighed him down before. I didn’t think about any of the things I said or did here; they just came to me, like a reflex, or an instinct, or an intuition and I followed them. The heart and the unconscious sometimes know more than the mind can understand… listen carefully for these small nudgings of the quiet voice of the heart of compassion…

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