I am daily moved by the compassion of donors to hospice. One woman wanted to assure that her children learned the real meaning of the holiday season, so she taught them to give honorariums to their friends to help hospice instead of receiving toys they really didn’t need.
Another group of women made quilts and stuffed animals all year long to give them to terminally ill children at year’s end. Yet another group, who had very little to give, gave $100 as a group representing their gratitude for what hospice had done for three of their residents.
Deepak Chopra has a wonderful code of compassion that can guide us in our unselfishness:
- Be kind to yourself and others.
- Come from love every moment you can.
- Speak of love with others. Remind each other of your spiritual purpose.
- Never give up hope.
- Know that you are loved.
Psychologists speak of the “narcissus complex,” which means an extreme self-love. This comes out of a story in Greek mythology. Narcissus, a very handsome young man, one day looked into the quiet waters of a pool and saw the reflection of himself. He completely fell in love with that self-reflection. To some extent, this happens to all of us and, as Oscar Wilde said in An Ideal Husband, “To love one’s self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
Love is so strong it can overcome even the instinct of self. There comes to our minds numerous stories of how people have sacrificed in so many ways, even their own lives, because they loved someone more than themselves. One of the best stories is recorded by Victor Hugo in Ninety-Three.
After the revolution, a French mother was driven from her home with her three children, including an infant. She had wandered through the woods and fields for several days. She and her three children had lived on roots and leaves.
On the third morning, they had hidden in some bushes on the approach of some soldiers and a sergeant. The sergeant ordered a soldier to find out what was stirring in the bushes; he prodded the mother and her three children out.
They were brought to the sergeant’s side, and he saw in an instant that they were starving; he gave them a long loaf of brown French bread. The mother took it eagerly, like a famished animal, broke it into two pieces, giving one piece to one child and the other to the second child.
“She has kept none for herself,” grumbled the sergeant.
“Because she is not hungry,” said a soldier.
“Because she is a mother,” said the sergeant.
Another great story of compassion is from the Russian writer, Ivan S. Turgenev, who met a beggar who asked him for money. “I felt in my pockets,” he said, “but there was nothing there. The beggar waited, and his outstretched hand twitched and trembled slightly. Embarrassed and confused, I seized his dirty hand and pressed it. ‘Do not be angry with me, brother,’ I said, ‘I have nothing with me.’ The beggar raised his bloodshot eyes and smiled. ‘You called me brother,’ he said, ‘that was indeed a gift.’ ”
We all must develop for ourselves a code of compassion.